A man arranges gas cylinders in Kampala. All Liquefied Petroleum Gas used in Uganda is currently imported from Arab oil producing countries through the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries. PHOTO/ Edgar R. Batte 


How safety concerns slow gas usage in homes

What you need to know:

Out of 19 people asked about how willing they are to embrace liquefied petroleum gas , 13 say they are afraid of using it in their homes, citing easy exposure to fire as it is highly flammable. 

With climate change advancing, the world’s target of zero deforestation by 2030 seemed like a dream in developing nations like Uganda. This is because the greatest percentage of households depend on wood fuels for their energy needs.

What was a dream is soon becoming a reality. This follows the government licensing China National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC) to construct a $4.8m ( overShs183b) natural gas conversion facility for the Kingfisher Oilwell on January 23, this year.

According to the Minister of Energy and Mineral Development, Ms Ruth Nankabirwa, the licence will ensure that the by-product of oil is used in manufacturing of Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG).

In a study conducted by Prosper Magazine, out of 19 people asked about how willing they are to embrace LPG, 13 say they are afraid of using it in their homes, citing easy exposure to fire as it is highly flammable.

Deputy National Coordinator for the Renewable Platform at the Ministry of Energy, Dr Nicholas Mukisa, says when it comes to climate change, gas stoves might be most important for their symbolic status although, many Ugandans are reluctant to embrace LPG, because they fear that the gas stove could easily burn them as well as their houses.

Dr Mukisa explains that people are not familiar with how to regulate the gas. If you do not carefully regulate this cooking gas stove, you will only use 60 percent of what you actually bought, because the rest will escape unburnt.  
He also says that another issue is inaccessibility to Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) in rural areas. 

“In urban centres, we have a lot of fuel centres where you can easily get gas or get your cylinder refilled. But in rural areas where supply is quite constrained, they find it very hard to use gas,” Mr Mukisa says.
“Many people are not aware about the benefits of using gas compared to using biomass (charcoal and firewood). Affordability is also another challenge, but it is relative because some people do not know how gas can be used.”

Dr Mukisa observed that although some people can afford gas they have not tried to explore the possibility of using it. He explains that there is a need for intensified awareness to address the challenges. On the issue of counterfeit LPG, Dr Mukisa says he has not heard issues of counterfeiting of these gas cylinders.

However, there have been cases of gas cylinders exploding. “But you know in a million, you could hear of one”.

He cannot guarantee that there will never be accidents. Insisting that he has also not heard people say that one fuel station is selling substandard gas, which is not flammable.

He also noted that he cannot conclusively say, issues of counterfeiting gas do not exist, it could be there.

Dr Nicholas Mukisa who doubles as a lecturer from the Department of Energy Science and Technology at MUBS says, the issue over-consumption of gas sometimes depends on the family size as well as the number of times the family cooks and what foods the family cooks. There are quite a couple of factors that come into play.

He also says people think that when you turn the gas stove knob to maximum, you are cooking faster, yet in actual sense you are losing a lot of gas.

He says, the point here is learning how to regulate the gas so that you do not just turn the stove or cooker to maximum and in the end make losses. He added that the cylinder that should have taken you two months to utilise ends up taking just a month.

According to Mr Don Bwesigye Binyina, the executive director, Africa Centre for Energy and Mineral Policy, people still opt for firewood because it is cost friendly and sometimes, you don’t incur any costs to get it.

“In fact, sometimes it is the rich who use charcoal. That explains why it is not a simple task to transition from fossil fuels to gas. But also the alternatives may not be available to some communities,” Mr Binyina says. 
He says there is a perception that food prepared using gas cookers is not tasty. This requires mindset change.

Giving an example, in the last five to 10 years, there was a perception by the mechanics that an automatic vehicle is not good on Ugandan roads.

He says there were myths, that they are not serviceable, manageable, reason being the mechanics then had only been trained in dealing with manual vehicles. It is the same issue with gas, Ugandans are not aware of proper use of gas to cook.

Mr Binyina reasoned that once manufacturing of LPG starts just like automatic vehicles flooded the market, it will be very easy for people to adapt.

Explaining that if research is done on assertions that food cooked with fossil fuels is tasty, findings may come out confirming that, all those who are using them to cook are actually eating food poisoned by these fuels without knowing it.

Illegal refills
Illegal refills put people’s lives and property at risk.
Poor handling of cylinders especially in the hands of illegal refillers often result in damage to cylinders and valves putting consumers at risk.

As a matter of fact, faulty valves and cylinders have been the major cause of gas-related accidents. This calls for order in the gas market and heightened vigilance by gas users.

“There is a need to sensitise Ugandans to change their mindset for the better,” Mr Binyina says, adding, “If the government gives out cylinders to homes, this will push people to switch to gas. The most expensive process is the starting point of acquiring a cylinder.”

He  switched from using charcoal at home to gas, not necessarily as a result of the government’s directive, but because charcoal has become more costly than gas.

Mr Binyina added that when you are buying gas for the first time, the gas cylinder is the most expensive item and may cost twice the actual price of gas.