Refilling your cooking gas cylinder set to get harder

An Energy and Petroleum Regulatory Authority official inspects gas cylinders at an illegal filling outlet at Changamwe in Mombasa. LPG marketers say they lost control of their cylinders to counterfeiters. [File, Standard]
You will soon no longer have the convenience of buying cooking gas at your neighbourhood kiosk or the nearest petrol station.

You will instead only refill at outlets run by oil marketing companies that own the brand of your gas cylinder.

This is as new rules abolishing an exchange pool created in 2009 that enabled consumers to trade their gas cylinders at any outlet without regard to the brand of their cylinder kick in in the next two weeks.

The regulations, which were aimed at easing access of Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG), had the unintended consequence of increasing illegal trade of the commodity.

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This saw industry players lobby for their scrapping.

While the new rules are bound to greatly inconvenience consumers, they will, on the other hand, enhance user safety as they squarely place the responsibility of ensuring gas cylinders are safe on the LPG marketers.

This means the marketers will be directly answerable for accidents caused by gas leaks, including compensation to victims.

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“The current regulations had not been clear as to who owns the cylinder between the user and the marketing companies. The new regulations are clear that the brand owners are the owners of the cylinders and if there is an accident, the owner will take responsibility,” said Pavel Oimeke, director-general Energy and Petroleum Regulatory Authority (EPRA) yesterday.

He spoke during the launch of a campaign to sensitise industry players on the new regulations organised by the Petroleum Institute of East Africa in Nairobi.

Consequently, the current mandatory cylinder pool exchange made up of 50 marketers will be disbanded.

The companies will have a leeway to create voluntary exchanges, which will, however, need the Competition Authority of Kenya’s approval to prevent a few firms forming an exchange that would lock out competitors. Mr Oimeke said the unified valve will, however, still be in use, allowing households a degree of flexibility in choosing cylinder brands.

While acquiring cylinders, Oimeke said consumers will pay a refundable deposit and they can always return the cylinder back to the owner and get the fee back.

Consumers might, however, end with the short end of the stick as the prices of gas cylinders are not standardised, and the new rules are silent on the refund.

LPG marketers say they lost control of their cylinders when the regulations were scrapped in 2009.

 “The vast majority of branded cylinders were never being returned to their original branded owners. Instead, the empty cylinder would move into a parallel market, be illegally refilled and returned back to retailers for sale again,” said Petroleum Institute of East Africa Chairman Olagoke Aluko.

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Liquefied Petroleum GasEnergy and Petroleum Regulatory AuthorityPetroleum Institute of East AfricaOlagoke Aluko