Home ECONOMY New LPG rules will ensure safety for all consumers

New LPG rules will ensure safety for all consumers

by biasharadigest
Ideas & Debate

New LPG rules will ensure safety for all consumers

gas cylinders
A man transports gas cylinders for sale. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

In August 2018, a 27-year-old man and his two-year-old son died while sleeping in their house in Mukuru slums in Nairobi after a gas cylinder exploded. In early 2019, two separate incidents of gas explosions were reported.

The first incident in 2019 occurred at Mlolongo in Machakos County and resulted in one fatality while two other persons sustained injuries. In the second incident, a gas cylinder exploded in a lodging in Nairobi burning three people beyond recognition.

As illustrated in the aforementioned incidents, gas cylinder explosions are disastrous and often result in devastations of the persons involved and their families.

Data from the Energy and Petroleum Regulatory Authority (EPRA) indicates that at least 12 accidents involving gas cylinder explosions have been recorded in the last 24 months translating on average to one case every two months. These accidents have claimed eight lives. It’s for this reason that three of Kenya’s largest insurance firms report that LPG-related incidents are now driving domestic insurance claims.

Domestic gas cylinder explosions have been attributed to use of illegally refilled cylinders. Illegal LPG operations ignore critical standard operating procedures, and this greatly compromises the safety of consumers.

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Poor handling of cylinders especially in the hands of illegal refillers often result in damage to cylinders and valves putting consumers at risk. As a matter of fact, faulty valves and cylinders have been the major cause of gas-related accidents. This calls for order in the gas market and heightened vigilance by gas users.

In 2009, the Government passed into law the country’s first Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) regulations to promote the use of LPG at the domestic front as a ‘clean fuel’ in a bid to curb health and environmental hazards associated with use of traditional cooking fuels such as biomass and kerosene.

Subsequently, the Second Medium Term Plan (2013 – 2017) under Vision 2030 framework recommended for the revision of the Energy Bill 2012 as part of the policy, legal and institutional reforms. As a result, the Petroleum Act 2019 (the Act) was assented to by the President on March 12,2019. The Act came into effect on March28, 2019 and brought a raft of changes in the petroleum sector regulatory environment and most notably provided for heavy penalties and fines for malpractice.

In alignment with the provisions of the Act, the Petroleum (Liquefied Petroleum Gas) Regulations 2019, or Legal Notice No. 100 of 2019, were gazetted on June 25, 2019. The regulations provided for a six-month transitional period to allow for the winding up of the mandatory cylinder exchange pool.

The new regulations allow for a ‘mutual’ cylinder exchange system as opposed to the previous regime that made it compulsory for LPG cylinder marketing companies to accept competitor cylinders. The mutual exchange means that brand owners have the choice of allowing exchange of their gas cylinders with competitor brands or opting out of the pool thereby restricting cylinder exchange to their respective brands.

Parties to such mutual LPG cylinder exchange agreements are required to consist of only licensed LPG cylinder brand owners trading in standard capacity cylinders (0.5kg, 1kg, 3kg, 6kg and 13kg) fitted with unified valves.

The use of unified valves ensures that consumers are not locked to a particular brand and can freely migrate to competitor brands without having to incur additional expenditure such as replacement of the regulator.

In order to create fair play in the gas market, the regulations require that parties wishing to enter into a mutual cylinder exchange agreements must obtain approvals from the Competition Authority of Kenya and EPRA.

The regulations have also taken into account the need to protect consumers who wish to return cylinders to brand owners for one reason or the other. Such consumers are entitled to the full deposit on presenting a cylinder to the brand owner. Other notable benefits include insurance against accidents as well as tracking of cylinders in order to enhance traceability throughout the distribution chain.

Consumer safety is the hallmark of the regulations especially getting rid of illegal refilling and illegal rebranding of cylinders. It’s an offence punishable by law to refill, rebrand, deface or submit for maintenance a gas cylinder without prior written authority by the brand owner. Persons found in breach of this provision risk a fine of not less than Sh10 million. Similarly, the regulations have banned the distribution of gas cylinders that bear no brand names further enhancing accountability and traceability throughout the supply chain. The regulations also bestow the responsibility to brand owner of ensuring that consumers are informed of the safe handling and use of LPG through notices affixed onto the cylinder.

Additionally, brand owners are required to indicate the tare and gross weights of the gas cylinder on the body of the cylinder and to weigh each cylinder and indicate the weight of such a cylinder on the receipt issued to the consumer. This is aimed at ensuring that consumers are not shortchanged on the quantity of LPG purchased. It is thus the responsibility of the consumer to witness the weighing of the cylinder at the point of sale and compare the resultant weight with the gross weight indicated on the body of the cylinder.

The implementation of the regulations will enable Kenya to achieve higher LPG usage comparable to countries like South Africa or Turkey which have stringent regulations that prohibit illegal re-filling and ensure that every cylinder is insured and traceable.

This has formed a foundation that has resulted in per capita consumptions of 15kg in Turkey and 6kg in South Africa. Another case in point is India which does not have a cylinder exchange pool but requires brand owners to register and track each cylinder in the supply chain.

The writer is Director-General, Energy and Petroleum Regulatory Authority.

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