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Alarm over increased illegal LPG refilling

Total Kenya managing director Alex Vovk said the culprits are now targeting petrol stations to steal cylinders, both empty and filled/FILE

NAIROBI, Kenya, Nov 30 – Oil marketers have decried the increased illegal refilling of Liquefied Petroleum Gas and called on the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) to hasten its efforts in curbing the business.

Total Kenya managing director Alex Vovk said the culprits are now targeting petrol stations to steal cylinders, both empty and filled.

This year alone, he says, the company has lost close to 4,000 cylinders through 50 attacks at various retail stations and during transportation.

“If you buy LPG from an illegal place you actually don’t know how it has been refilled or handled. The many explosions you here caused by cooking gas, 99.99 percent is due to poor handling while refilling. So the safety of many Kenyans is at stake and I think the government has a duty to act on this,” Vovk said during the launch of two Total’s LPG storage tanks in Nairobi.

The new storage tanks which cost $ 1 million (Sh86million) will increase Totals’ storage capacity from 150 to 300 metric tonnes.

Growth in demand for cooking gas over the years has been cited as among main factors fuelling growth of the illicit industry segment.

Statistics on the other hand are scanty as to how much gas is bought and sold in the black market, but the industry players say the segment could account for as much as 30 percent of LPG that is consumed in the country.

This year, the ERC has been undertaking regular raids at suspected illegal depots especially in Nairobi’s Industrial Area and Eldoret, arresting operators and customers buying from the premises.

ERC Director General Kaburu Mwirichia on his part said the commission will soon hire a new private auditing firm to intensify its raid in pulling out anyone in the business without a license.

“If you are doing an illegal refilling business, as specified in the Energy Act, it’s an offence because you don’t have a licence. So there is no other option apart from being arrested and taken to court. It’s not only bad commercially but worse safety wise.” said Mwirichia.

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He also challenged the oil marketers to have an account of all the gas cylinders they release to the market to be able to trace stealing points of the commodity.

“Up to now we have not been able to have a substantial conclusion where they get this gas,” he added.

Currently, Kenyans consumes about 100,000 Metric Tonnes of LPG annually.

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