22 July 2007

Kenya: Acute Gas Crisis Hits Towns

Nairobi — An acute shortage of liquefied petroleum (cooking) gas has hit major towns countrywide.

A Sunday Nation survey yesterday showed that some dealers had not received fresh supplies for the past three months.

And customers interviewed complained of difficulty in getting the commodity, forcing them to resort to other fuels.

Attendants at the BP filling station at Ngara in Nairobi, Mr Sylvester Mutuku and Ms Roselyne Kanguhia, said they had been without gas for three months.

"Customers have been complaining, and when we send them to the depot, they are sent back to us, but we have no gas since we rely on the depot for supplies," Mr Mutuku said.

At Mobil Mart of Pangani and the Total station in Juja Road, attendants said they had been having a shortage for a week as they had a huge supply.

Mr Ernest Mwangi attributed the shortage to inadequate supplies from the Mombasa Kenya Petroleum Refineries. "Whenever we place our orders at the depot in (Nairobi's) industrial area for supplies, we are told to wait, only to be told that gas is not available," he said.

But the refineries general manager, Mr John Mruttu, reassured customers the crisis would soon end following the arrival of an oil tanker in Mombasa with a large amount of imported gas.

"Based on what we are producing and what is being imported, we expect the LPG shortage being experienced in parts of the country to be brought under control in the next one or two weeks," he said.

He said the refineries had released 1,000 tonnes of gas since the beginning of the month which, he noted, would soon reach marketers.

"We normally refine a total of 26,000 tonnes of LPG annually, which makes our monthly production 2,000 metric tons, and this being mid-month, we have so far managed to release 1,000 to marketers," he added.

Both of the firm's two plants were operational after one, which is normally shut in June, was re-opened this week, he said.

At the city's industrial area where most depots are located, officials were optimistic that normal supplies will improve tomorrow. "We are expecting more gas from overseas in Mombasa this weekend," one said.

In Mombasa, several fuel stations had by yesterday exhausted their stocks, while others said they had limited amounts. At the Changamwe BP/Shell station, an employee said there was a shortage of the 5kg and 13kg cylinders.

In Kisumu, supermarkets complained of a two-week shortage. Mr Veja Odedra, the Yatin High Street branch manager, said he had been experiencing a shortage, especially of the Total gas.

Only Triton was available, he added.

At Ukwala's Zahra House branch, head supervisor Ochiro Simon said he had had an unreliable supply of Total gas for about two weeks, while that of K-gas was on and off.

In Eldoret, consumers were shocked to learn of the crisis when they arrived with cylinders at various stations for a refill.

Additional Reporting by Patrick Mayoyo, Cosmas Butunyi and Dennis Odunga

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