The increased use of LPG in Kenya has not been without challenges with key among them being the proliferation of illegal LPG operators. These operations are driven by unscrupulous business persons who specialize in the filling and distribution of LPG cylinder brands without any authority from the brand owners. The LPG cylinders get to the unscrupulous persons through consumers seeking cylinder refills or even through theft of cylinders from LPG marketing companies. LPG cylinder thefts have become rampant with several petrol stations reporting such cases in the past.
The current LPG licensing framework under the ambient of the Energy Act, 2006 requires that people desirous of operating LPG businesses obtain licences from the Energy Regulatory Commission. These businesses encompass activities such as import, export, wholesale, transport, storage and filling of LPG. The evaluation of LPG installations for purposes of licensing is a detailed activity owing to the hazardous nature of this product and any site is vigorously evaluated to ensure that the minimum safety standards are met. Illegal LPG installations are thus a big health hazard to their surrounding and the public should report any suspect sites operating in the neighborhoods.
ERC on its part has continued to root out these unscrupulous business operatives and prosecute them. This has been done through joint operations with other government agencies including the Kenya Police (Flying Squad Division), the Kenya Bureau of Standards and the Anti-Counterfeit Authority. To further enhance its enforcement mandate, the Commission procured the services of an independent LPG inspector whose main role is to audit the entire LPG supply chain with the aim of bringing to the fore persons engaging in malpractices for purposes of prosecution by the Commission.
In addition, the Commission has also initiated the process of revising legal notice 121 of 2009 with a view to increasing the penalties and fines to be levied on any persons found in breach of the requirements.
The consumer plays a big role in the LPG supply chain in that they provide the necessary market especially for the cooking gas in cylinders. Consumers can thus play a major role in ensuring that illegal operatives are brought to a halt by ensuring that they only purchase LPG from licensed retailers. It is crucial for consumers to note that all licensed LPG dealers should have a licence displayed at their location of business every time and that they should always issue an official receipt with the cylinder weight and serial number clearly indicated.
For their own safety, consumers are advised to check on the cylinder's neck for the validity of the test dates for the cylinders that they intend to buy. LPG cylinders with test dates exceeding 8 years from the last date of test are deemed to be prone to material failure and hence explosions. Several explosions of such cylinders have been reported in the recent past some of which resulted in loss of life.
Consumers should also know that in accordance to Legal Notice 121 of 2009, the only person authorized to fill an LPG cylinder is the person whose brand appears on the particular cylinder. Companies filling other companies' brands of cylinders are considered to be counter-feiting the original brand and are thus culpable under the Anti-Counterfeit law. Thus, while the use of LPG is encouraged, all of us have a critical role in ensuring that the distribution of this product is done as per the law. Eng. Linus Gitonga is the Director Petroleum at the Energy Regulatory Commission