While the cost of electricity continues to increase quite substantially, the price of liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) for domestic use, which is regulated by the Department of Energy, and its efficiency make it a viable alternative energy source, says the Liquefied Petroleum Gas Safety Association of Southern Africa (LPGSASA).
“In South Africa, LPG is most efficient and suitable for use in cooking, water heating and spatial heating applications. “However, it is also highly efficient in many agricultural, commercial and industrial applications,” says LPGSASA CEO Kevin Robertson.
He comments that LPG is easily transportable, referring to it as “energy in a bottle” that is fairly accessible to most users. He adds that, with supply being more readily available, higher demand and an increase in competition in terms of supply, distribution and installation of the product-related equipment will increase quite substantially.
However, Robertson notes that the gas industry faces a few major issues.
“Firstly, there is a lack of import and/or storage facilities for LPG. If there was a sustainable supply of LPG, especially during the winter months, it would lead to a huge uptake in the use of the product.”
However, he adds, supply limitations will be addressed through the proposed completion of an import and storage facility early next year.
Robertson highlights that, if LPG were readily available, the general feeling in the industry is that the market would grow threefold to fourfold in the short to medium term.
“This, in turn, would alleviate the pressure on the electricity grid, create employment for large numbers of people and reduce harmful emissions that impact on our environment, as well as reduce illness and fatalities among communities still using traditional fuels such as wood, coal, paraffin and biofuels,” he stresses.
The second challenge, he asserts, is the illegal filling of cylinders in the distribution chain, which he notes is a major safety concern.
Robertson explains that companies and individuals who illegally fill cylinders which do not belong to them pose two major concerns. They do not maintain the cylinders, which means they may not be safe for continued use, and they overfill cylinders, which is illegal and unsafe, especially when the cylinders have not been properly maintained. Alternatively, the cylinders could be and often are underfilled, which means the consumer is being cheated.
There is a requirement for a licensing regime throughout the distribution chain to better manage companies and individuals involved in the industry and also help to regulate the training of LPG cylinder fillers, as this is a critical function, he points out.
Owing to LPG industry being well regulated from a safety perspective, it enjoys a deserved safety reputation. Robertson adds that the reputation that LPG is dangerous is rapidly being disproved and, hence, more consumers are willing to use it.
“There are no environmental disadvantages to using LPG – no deforestation or time- and labour-intensive activities, such as wood collecting, and no indoor pollution when used inside dwelling spaces.”
He comments that LPG is “clean burning”, compared with most other products, such as coal, which can emit toxic fumes, burn the eyes or clog up chests. “It has a high energy efficiency value and is safe to use.”
Moreover, Robertson adds that LPG can easily be liquefied, making it a highly versatile energy alternative. He notes that cylinders are easily transported, making LPG accessible in remote areas.
“There are no power cuts with LPG, so, during a power outage or load-shedding, one can still cook or heat water depending on the equipment and/or appliances used . . . at home or in a restaurant,” he states.
Robertson notes that, in low-income countries, the number of deaths caused by malaria, tuberculosis and HIV/Aids stands at 1.6-million deaths a year, with two-million deaths being attributed to victims being regularly exposed to pollutants released though cooking indoors using solid fuels – making the elimination of indoor pollution a top priority.
He notes that the only disadvantage might be that the cylinders are not transparent, which does not make it possible to see the amount of gas left. However, this can be mitigated by keeping a filled-up spare cylinder, he concludes.