With the ongoing discovery of oil in the country, natural gas has also been discovered, adding to the list of our possible energy alternatives. While plans are underway to see to the construction of an oil refinery in the country, gas depots are also on the table.
However, a battle has erupted between large gas dealers with the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC). The dealers via Petroleum Institute of East Africa (PIEA) claim that ERC is not doing enough to curb illegal gas dealers who have become quite rampant in the country.
The PIEA has since published a notice to the public in regard to this matter warning them of the increased counterfeit gas cylinders in the market which in turn puts them at high risk.
According to PIEA, seven out of ten LPG cylinders in the market are either illegally re-branded or filled, have been tampered with or their contents does not meet the stipulated requirements. The Petroleum Institute has thus advised consumers to “only purchase their cylinders from petrol stations and authorised dealers who should show their proof of authorisation.”
Supply and handling the gas
LPG is also referred to as butane or propane. In Kenya- where according to 2010 statistics less than 25 per cent of citizens use gas- it is commonly used as a fuel in heating appliances and for cooking. It is however also used as a vehicle fuel where it’s known as auto gas. It is often supplied in cylinder capacities of 6kg, 13kg and 40/45kg.
LPG is prepared by refining petroleum or wet natural gas. It is derived almost entirely from fossil fuel sources, being manufactured during the refining of petroleum (crude oil), or extracted from petroleum or natural gas streams as they emerge from the ground.
Like all petroleum products, LPG requires extra care from extraction, processing to packaging.LPG has a lower energy density compared to that of petrol and fuel oil. It is however heavier than air unlike natural gas. Its boiling point is below room temperature and will evaporate quickly at normal temperatures and pressures. It is thus supplied in pressurised in steel cylinders where it is typically filled to 80-85 per cent of their capacity. This allows for thermal expansion of the contained liquid.
The gas tanks are often pressure vessels normally cylindrical, spherical or horizontal. They have pressure relief valves that vent the gas into the atmosphere when subjected to exterior heating.
In Kenya, the main suppliers of LPG gas include Total, OiLibya, National Oil, Hashi Energy, Midland Energy among others. For one to become a licensed supplier of gas, one needs to possess a minimum of 5,000 LPG gas cylinders in the country.
The valve for the cooking cylinders is customised such that one can exchange their empty cylinder for any brand of LPG available.
Light gas cylinders
The country’s market has also seen the introduction of light gas cylinders that are made of a combination of plastic material on the interior and a fiber glass exterior. The cylinders which weigh just half as heavy as traditional cylinders have a much longer life span as they are rust and moisture proof. They are also translucent and explosion proof in case of a fire.
FYI: First commercial LPG appeared in 1912.