NAIROBI, Kenya, Nov 9 – In its quest to increase the usage of cooking gas in the country, the National Oil Corporation has launched a mobile Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) filling facility at its Nairobi terminal.
The corporation’s Managing Director Sumayya Hassan-Athmani said through the plant, they seek to address the perennial LPG shortages that are experienced in the country.
“For the first time in Kenya, it will also allow us to fill a cylinder as per the requirements of the customers, legally and safely,” she said.
This means that if a customer can only afford to purchase one kilogram of LPG, the firm will sell exactly that amount as opposed to insisting that he has to buy the commodity in six kilos or 13 kg.
However, the Nairobi unit will only be used to fill up cylinders since it is based in a safety and storage area with millions of highly flammable products.
The State-owned Corporation invested an estimated Sh10 million in the facility with Hassan-Athmani saying that more plants are scheduled to be unveiled across the country by next year as they seek to make LPG usage accessible and affordable.
“Our main target for this particular unit is the middle and lower income segment of the market even as we provide full cylinders to the other segments of the market and we will keep spreading those out as we see the demand,” the MD said adding that they will also be able to effectively tap into the market served by illegal refillers.
The prohibitive initial cost of acquiring the cookers and cylinders as well as the high cost of refilling a cylinder are some of the factors that hinder many people from switching to the cleaner fuel.
It is estimated that LPG uptake in the country stands at about 11 percent, a situation that is also blamed on the lack of adequate storage and distribution infrastructure.
Were these supply constraints to be addressed, industry players estimate that demand would be around 200,000 Metric Tonnes (MT) per year up from the current 90,000 MT.
With this initiative, National Oil hopes to increase competition in the downstream market and thus help to drive down the cost of the commodity.
To do this however, the corporation acknowledges that it requires assistance from the government which could subsidise the cost of cylinders for the low income earners.
On its part, the government has undertaken to set up a bulk LPG storage and distribution facility in Mombasa which would make the product more accessible to Kenyans.
The other proposed initiative is the modernisation of the Kenya Petroleum Refineries Limited, which supplies 35,000 MT of LPG but which is expected to generate about 115,000 MT.
These measures however have been a long time coming and their delayed implementation have further aggravated the situation.