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Radical LPG rules to rein in illegal refills

Lewis Njoka @PeopleDailyKe

It will be impossible for consumers to refill their cooking gas cylinders at any stations other than those authorised by brand owners as per the new liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) regulations announced by the Energy and Petroleum Regulatory Authority (EPRA) yesterday.

EPRA director general Paviel Oimeke said the new regulations will improve consumer safety and brand accountability by making it illegal for anyone to refill cylinders without  the authority of the brand owner.

The energy regulator has replaced the current mandatory exchange system, which allowed oil marketers to accept cylinders from any brand,   with a mutual exchange system.

The new system dictates that LPG brand owners will no longer be required to accept gas cylinders from competing brands unless there is a mutual agreement between the two. 

Under the new regulations, LPG companies  will be held liable for any accidents caused by their cylinders. They will be required to insure all cylinders and track them from filling plants to the retail shops to guarantee consumer safety.

Original suppliers

Customers seeking to switch brands will be required to return the cylinder to the original supplier  for a refund after which they can buy from another brand. This will help brands recover cylinders lost in circulation over the years.

However, the universal valves currently being used on cylinders will not change, therefore, consumers are not required to change burners.

Brands seeking to get into a refill  agreement will have to seek the approval of the Competition Authority of Kenya and EPRA.

The new regulations will cripple the parallel unregulated LPG markets that threaten the safety of consumers and reduce profits for genuine sellers.

Oimeke said  the mutual exchange system will improve the LPG business environment in the country and ensure safety for consumers as it introduces additional controls and removes barriers hindering development of the sector.

“Under the new arrangement, brands will be required to enter into contracts with distributors and resellers and have safety instructions printed on every cylinder,” said Oimeke.

“The new regulations will make it easy for consumers to  receive compensation from LPG brands in case of accidents,” he added.

The mutual exchange system seeks to eliminate challenges associated with the mandatory system where most cylinders end up with illegal refillers as opposed to returning them to the original owners, an arrangement that resulted in safety problems, according to the Petroleum Institute of East Africa chairman Olagoke Aluko.

Cylinder shortage

This made it impossible for brand owners to track and control their cylinders resulting in their shortage and increased LPG-related accidents.

As a result, brands were prosecuted for accidents they had no control over, a situation that has seen major brand owners refrain from making new cylinders for the last 10 years. Total Kenya, for instance, only holds 60,000 cylinders after releasing more than 800,000 into circulation.

About 90 per cent of all gas cylinders in circulation today are getting refilled irregularly according to Aluko. LPG is widely considered a cleaner, safer and cheaper alternative to biomass fuels which are widely associated with respiratory diseases.

Currently, 84 per cent of Kenyans use biomass fuels which has resulted in increased instances of respiratory-related diseases and  environmental degradation. Smoke inhalation accounts for about 40 per cent of all infant mortalities in Kenya.

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