6 February 2013

Nigeria: In Search of Standards in LPG Sector

Lagos — One of the problems besetting the Liquefied Petroleum Gas sector is the dearth of requisite investment, which has currently reduced its consumption pattern in Nigeria.

Nigeria's use of this cheaper and eco-friendly source of energy is also said to be an eyesore in Africa.

According to the Minister of Petroleum, Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke, Nigeria is ranked among the lowest consumers of cooking gas with a paltry 110,000 metric tones per annum as annual consumption.

Besides, the current adulteration and low standard sales and distribution of LPG components is a source of worry for the country which has begun aggressive campaign for the use of cooking gas in line with its gas master plan.

The Standards Organisations of Nigeria, whose mandate it is to regulate and enforce standards on all products in the country realised the enormity of the challenges the development has on consumption when it assembled experts in 2007 to deliberate on standards in the Liquefied Petroleum Gas sector in the country.

Officials represented at the gathering include the Department of Petroleum Resources, Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, Consumer Protection Council, Petroleum Academy Limited and petroleum marketing companies etc, helped in producing a Nigerian standard for liquefied petroleum gas for the country which was in line with global requirements.

Recently, Director-General of SON, Joseph Odumodu rolled out new policies for the importation of cylinders for Liquefied Petroleum Gas in the country.

He said all new importers of LPG cylinders shall have a defined programme for the maintenance of cylinders with trained personnel on how to inspect and re-qualify LPG cylinders.

He said all importers of LPG cylinders shall henceforth sign an undertaking for SON to take full responsibility of the maintenance and requalification of imported cylinders.

He said importers seeking the renewal of their approvals shall meet the requirements above while the expiry dates of cylinders shall be engraved or embossed on all cylinders (15 years life span).

He added that the way forward for the re-qualification of cylinders in the country would be through the composition of a technical committee comprising members from all sectors which would be constituted to develop a framework for the workability of the scheme.

According to him, the committee would have to accept whether it would adopt a method similar to what obtains in India or China. He said the practice in Nigeria is similar to that of China, but needs the co-operation of the plant owners/marketers/retailers to succeed.

"The framework should be approved by the stakeholders for implementation," he said.

He explained that the benefit of the exercise would lead to more business within the sector, especially for indigenous cylinder manufacturers, enhance safety of lives and property in the industry and boost the LPG business.

He said other benefits include creation of more confidence in the minds of users on safety, elimination of most of the sub-standard cylinders from circulation while all the old cylinders will be scrapped.

The Ministry of Petroleum Resources has also come up with LPG National Strategic Policy as a back up to the efforts of the Standards Organisation of Nigeria in riding the country of fake LPG components.

But members of the Nigeria Liquefied Petroleum Gas Association are said to be on the verge of influencing the standards on the cooking gas in the country.

Our correspondent gathered that the association would meet with the Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON) and other regulators this week to deliberate on the review of the standards regarding mixture of components of LPG.

Observers are of the opinion that if the development sails through it would cause havoc to the lives of the users of cooking gas as well as castrate the economy.

Experts said the major components of LPG are propane and butane, but the former has high pressure. Propane is about 45 per cent cheaper than butane, which has characteristic low pressure and costly.

But according to the Nigerian Industrial Standard, which was approved by SON, butane and propane should be mixed on equal measures of 50 per cent each.

Mr. Adebusola Thompson, an LPG expert, explained that considering the age of most cylinders, possibility of explosion may be high if propane pressure is exerted on the cylinder.

He said the acceptable standard in the globe is that all cylinders must be built to propane specification.

"The safety in this measure is that if a marketer mixes the two elements on equal or different measures or 100 percent propane or butane, the end-user is guaranteed of his or her safety," he said.

Experts commended the Standards Organisation of Nigeria and other regulators in cleansing the LPG sector but tasked the institutions to re-channel their efforts on the cylinders in the country.

Thompson advised SON to explore avenue to ban outdated cylinders in the market.

"SON should not compromise on standard LPG equipment. It is unfair to allow for importation of fake and adulterated equipment of LPG into Nigeria. Nigeria should be seen to consume cooking gas in line with global and acceptable safety standards and nothing less," he said.

A gas expert, Sunday Babatunde counseled SON and the Ministry of Petroleum Resources to decree that importation and use of cylinders that should take 100 percent propane must guarantee the safety of end users.

Above all, the federal government's efforts to phase out outdated and fake cylinders must be pursued with vigor and tailored with its LPG National Strategic Policy which is aimed at boosting the growth of the LPG sector through reduction in the use of kerosene for LPG.

Operators must also cooperate with the federal government by complying with the acceptable safety standards in the importation and distribution of liquefied petroleum gas, otherwise known as cooking gas.

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