Lessons from NGV.
I was filling up ngv at a remote Petronas petrol station near Air Hitam, Batu Pahat, Johor, when something happen. It was almost 11 pm and the station was about to close shop. Yes, it was a remote station because of its location that was about 100 km away from Air Keroh up north or Johor Bahru down south. If you are travelling the PLUS highway from Kuala Lumpur towards Johor Bahru or Singapore, and needs to top up ngv along the way, things is going to be quite sweaty after Air Keroh. That is because there is no other station that sells ngv except this one, and you need to switch to using petrol if the gas pressure gets pretty low before reaching this station. The anticipation that you might not get gas because the pump is faulty or whatever do not help to get you relax which is required when travelling the highway.
The station is not an old one and is not a new one either. It has been there for a couple of years and it is still looking like new from the roadside if you are just passing through on your way towards Kluang town about 30 km away. If you exit the highway to get to the station which is about 2 km away from the Air Hitam toll plaza, you will need to pass another station which do not sell ngv. In fact you can find another 2 Petronas stations in the vicinity of Air Hitam towhship and a coulpe more if you continue to travel towareds Parit Raja and Batu Pahat, all of which do not sell ngv. This is the general situation in Malaysia which has plenty of natural gas but have limited stations that retail the gas. Perhaps the infrastructure is not adequate just as yet to allow all stations to sell gas because our resourses have been put into the Petronas Twin Tower or other similar mega project. That was only a guess. It can be true though.
At the station there were only 3 cars queing for gas that night. 2 taxis were on the left lane and another one on the right lane. I was happy because this should not take awhile to top up the gas. I took the right lane because there is only one car there. When the car in front moved out I drive forward to fill up the gas. After stopping the car and ‘kill’ the engine, I unlock the car’s bonnet so that the pump attendent could open it and connect the gas hose to the car. However after opening the bonnet, the pump attendent did not connect the gas hose to the car. I was surprised but not totally surprised because I have met a few pump attendent on several occasion who are happy to allow us to connect the hose to the car by ourself. I wonder if that is the right thing to do or not. Perhaps it was the right thing to do, considering many stations encourage ‘self service’ to reduce their overhead costs.
I went out of the car and try to connect the gas hose to the car’s gas inlet valve. The hose some how refuse to unlock itself from its mount. I did not want to try very hard fearing that I might break something while doing it. Instead I turn the gas valve on and walla, a quick burst of gas came out from the hose. I quickly turn it off and immediately the gas stops, leaving me and the taxi driver stunt for a while. Luckly the situation gets the station manager’s attention who came to my rescue and he suggested that I use the pump from the left lane. He said that sometime the hose gets stuck to the mount due to wear and tear. I have no choice but to agree with him.
The pump attendant was a young man who do not look he was very tired or exhausted like some other. Perhaps he was getting ready to continue to work somewhere else after the station closes. I was not particularlily sure about that and I did not ask. I did ask him how long he has been working at the station. “Since 4 months ago”. He said. In my mind I figured that he was not too fresh not to know if there was any problem with the hose. But I keep wondering why he did not connect the hose to the car after opening the bonnet. I can think of one good reason like he wanted to collect payment from the other driver who has finish filling up his tank or any other reasons for that matter, but they will be just pure assumptions. Up till today I was not sure of the real reason. Perhaps it will remain as a mystery for quite a while or maybe forever.
After filling the gas I paid the attendent for the gas which amounted to RM6.60. This is the real luxury of using ngv. You never have to pay more than RM10.00 to get a full tank. Travelling at the legal highway speed of about 115 km/h you can cover up to slighly more than 100 km before the gas run out or the pressure gets low. Which means you need to top up gas at almost every hour, or you need to switch to using petrol. Yes. Almost every hour you need to top up. That was what I said. This is not too bad though, if compared to using the Bugatti Veyron which will emptied its 100 liter petrol tank in 12 minutes after doing the maximum speed of 407km/h. Wow. I always did try to catch up with new development and make myself and the kids happy in my own ways.
Filling gas at this station, as well as at other stations have left some memorable experience. There were many times when you need to join a long que to top up. Things can be worst if among the que were a few busses. A single bus will still be there filling up its tank long after five or six cars have finish filling up their gas tanks. You can imagine what happend if there are 4 or 5 busses waiting to fill up gas at the same station. If the pressure at the station is insufficent to accomodate 2 lanes, 1 lane will be closed and the waiting gets even longer. Patience is the order of the day when you stumble into this situation, unless you are prepared to run the car on petrol. The maths is like this. Spending RM6.60 on gas will take you over 100 km. With RM6.60 of petrol it will take you around 30 km. In other words if you want to cover a distance of around 300 km like from Kuala Lumpur to Singapore, you need to spend less than RM20.00 on gas or RM60.00 on petrol. Convert the RM to Sing or US Dollar the figure can gets even lower. The problem is you need to stop at 3 stations if you use gas, compared to only 1 station if you use petrol. Obviousely, if you own a Porsche Panamera or Cayenne, or a Bugatti Veyron you will not be very interested in this, because non of them uses gas, and unlike me, you rarely worry about how much to pay for the petrol.
Before leaving the gas station, the pump attendent told me that the taxi driver was saying that if I do not know how to use the pump I should not have done it. I was stunt once again. Did I make myself look like a fool just now?. Did I look like I have never fill up gas before?. I thought that my ordeal was over and obviousely I was wrong. I was tired and was expecting to delete my memory of the incident. Further deliberation from the taxi driver’s comment will get me more exhausted. I rest my case and reluctantly concluded that the taxi driver was right. The attendent was more understanding, although he did contribute towards the incident and he said that sometimes things like this do happen. I drove slowly out of the station knowing that I have less then another hour of driving to do to reach Johor Bahru, some 80 km away. Somehow along the way I cannot help but wonder if what I did was wrong. Maybe I should have waited for the attendent to get the hose connected.