Directive on LPG cylinders leaves depots vacant

IOCL has stopped filling cylinders from Bhutanese dealers at their LPG bottling plants

LPG: The department of trade’s letter asking the Indian Oil Corporation Limited (IOCL) to not refill expired LPG cylinders from Bhutanese dealers has left the depots in Phuentsholing with no LPG cylinders to issue.

With the need to inspect and re-qualify LPG cylinders as per the best international practice, the trade department’s June 9 letter had urged the oil corporation to adhere to statutory testing of the due cylinders, stating that such a practice posed threat to human lives and properties.

The department of trade wrote to IOCL after the Royal Audit Authority’s (RAA) found that expired LPG cylinders were still in circulation.

Following the letter, IOCL has refrained from entertaining cylinders from Bhutanese dealers at their LPG bottling plants in Raninagar, Siliguri, India.

LPG

The expiry code- B07 means, it expired in the second quarter of 2007. The alphabets A, B, C and D indicate the first, second, third and fourth quarter of the year

As of yesterday, transport trucks were still stuck in Raninagar, Silliguri.  Other LPG bottling plants in Sapara, Guwahati, and Bongaigaon have also been piloting the same instruction.

The decision has left all three depots of Bhutan Oil distributor (BOD), Druk Petroleum, and Damchen Petroleum with no stock of LPG cylinders to issue, which has been returning clients with empty cylinders. 

Although some Phuentsholing residents said the fault was with the dealers for not having the expired cylinders re-qualified, there are also some who are not happy with the trade department’s decision.

“The department shouldn’t carry out such action without any prior notification,” a resident employee said. “The public will be at the losing end.”

IOCL had initially asked the dealers to re-qualify their expired cylinders sometime in April.  However, Kuensel learnt that the dealers had not re-qualified their cylinders completely.

Officials with the depots said they were still working on it.  It has been learnt that two of the three dealers had got proposals from North Bengal Cylinders, a new plant at Fatakupur, Siliguri that re-qualifies expired cylinders.

An official with one of the depots also mentioned about the challenge of not having such plants that re-qualified expired cylinders.

“The IOCL had instructed us but there wasn’t any such plants in North Bengal that re-qualified expired cylinders,” he said. “However, we’re working on it and are also hopeful to complete re-qualifying all cylinders by the end of June.”

Meanwhile, the trade department wrote another letter to the executive director of IOCL in Kolkata, India on June 11.  The letter stated that Bhutanese dealers had appealed for more time to mitigate the statutory testing.

The letter also stated that such action was needed, considering public outrage that could follow due to the unavailability of LPG.  The department, as per the letter, is giving time to dealers to prepare and mobilise resources to be able to comply with its directives.

The dealers have also “assured” the department to comply with the directives at the earliest.  The trade department has given them until the end of this month.

Officiating director with the trade department, Dophu Tshering, said the dealers must comply within the time extension given.

“This means, the IOCL will not render refills in Raninagar from July 1, 2015,” he said.  The department also has ensured that expired cylinders are removed from circulation, he said.

An LPG cylinder has a lifespan of 10 years, following which it has to be repaired or disposed.  Although the department of trade has given an extension, it is not sure if expired cylinders with the dealers in the country could be re-qualified in the stipulated time, because some officials said it would require at least two months to do so.

As of yesterday, officials at the depots said they were expecting LPG cylinders to reach in Phuentsholing today or tomorrow.

BOD has a quota of 26,900 LPG cylinders a month for western region, while Druk Petroleum has about 6,000.  Damchen Petroleum has a quota for about 2,400 LPG cylinders a month.

Meanwhile, the wait to get a refilled LPG cylinder for residents like Kinley Wangchuk is still on.

“I came from Wangkha,” the 40-year-old said, adding that he couldn’t get a refill in two days at the Gedu depot. “I’d no option but to come to Phuentsholing because I’m entitled to only one cylinder in a month.”

But Kinley Wangchuk had to return home again with his empty cylinder.

By Rajesh Rai, Phuentsholing

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