LPG: Customers will no longer have to stand in queue to get their cylinders refilled.

Bhutan Oil Distributer (BOD) in Motithang, Thimphu has introduced a coupon system to make the process less cumbersome for customers.

Customers can now drop their cylinders, get a coupon and head to the store and get a refilled cylinder. If the number of customers increases, number of coupon counters will also be increased.

“The new arrangement has helped a lot. Customers don’t have to wait in a long queue,” said BOD’s manager, Kinga. There is also change in the timing of gas distribution. Distribution now opens at 7 am.

The coupon system, however, has not been introduced in other retail outlets because of small number of customers. In Thimphu, Bhutan Gas sells about 100 cylinders a day, while Damchen sells only about 20.

To further reduce congestion at Motithang, BOD is planning to open a new counter at Babesa. BOD also has plans to start home delivery service.

Lyonpo Norbu Wangchuk said: “If you had been to the BOD at Motithang before a week, you would have been a angry man for having to wait for an hour.”

He said that the plan is to make sure that Thimphu gets 500 cylinders everyday.

Kinga said that about 500 cylinders (two truckloads) are issued on a daily basis.

Minister for Economic Affairs, Lyonpo Norbu Wangchuk, said that hoarding of cylinders is one of the main problems that lead to shortage. “If the Bhutanese homes did not keep three to seven cylinders, there would be enough cylinders for all of us.”

Shortage of LPG occurs also because of strikes in India and roadblocks in the country.

Lyonpo said that LPG is a quota item and that the supply from India is limited. “We have to ensure that they are equally distributed.”

Although Bhutan has three distributors – Damchen Petroleum, Druk Petroleum and BOD – BOD is the most popular distributer.
Lyonpo said that shortage occurred because of the requirement for requalification of the cylinders. There are more than 200,000 cylinders in circulation in the country.

The Royal Audit Authority has found that 35 percent of the cylinders had expired, which means that the cylinders have passed ten-year life. This works out to about 75,000 cylinders that are out of circulation currently.

Lyonpo said that it could take about three months to re-qualify the cylinders. “The only way to stop this deflection was to introduce this card system. In fact, National Council discussed cylinders being deflected to India.”

One of the reasons for the reduction queue at Motithang is due to introduction of the commercial gas cylinders for hotels. Before the introduction of commercial gas cylinders, big hotel used to hoard about 40 cylinders.

Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay said 200,000 cylinders is more than enough for the country. “But if you are going to hoard the cylinders, if our commercial operations are going to use the subsidized gas, if you are going to deflect the cylinders, its never going to be enough.”

Prime Minister said that if private consumers don’t want to use the card and don’t want to stand in queue, they have the option to go for commercial gas.

MB Subba