Compressed natural gas (CNG) vehicle numbers are booming as countries seek energy security, reduced trade deficits and cuts in CO2 emissions, but Australia almost completely ignores the fuel.

A report, "Natural Gas Australia: an Automotive Perspective", says countries such as Pakistan and Iran have more than two million natural gas vehicles (NGVs), while Argentina, Brazil and India each have more than one million. Australia has fewer than 3000 - mainly buses and trucks.

The comprehensive report - the first in a new series on alternative fuels - is designed to give insights for businesses and governments into trends in the fuelling of cars and commercial vehicles.

The report says NGV numbers worldwide are increasing by 17.8 per cent a year. Natalie Roberts, principal engineering consultant at consulting and reporting group ABMARC, said many governments worldwide, including in the US and Europe, were actively promoting policies encouraging the use of CNG-powered vehicles.

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CO2 emissions from an NGV are between 20 per cent and 25 per cent lower when compared directly to the petrol engine it replaces.

However, the report highlights the poor progress made in Australia, with less than 0.02 per cent of the national fleet using the fuel - even though natural gas is piped past half the service stations, residential and commercial properties throughout Australia, where vehicles could be fuelled from compressors extracting gas from the mains.

Known Australian reserves of natural gas tripled from 1993 to 2009 and are expected to last 200 years.