Load shedding has SA scrambling for gas
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Erratic load shedding schedules and cold winter weather have sent South Africans scrambling for liquid petroleum gas (LPG).
Now a national gas shortage has turned into a game of “first come, first served” as consumers flock to stores and petrol stations across the country.
A Joburg independent gas distributor spoke on Friday of his excruciating wait for gas, ordered from the Western Cape, and being quoted R70 000 to transport it.
Before the shortage, he had been quoted R34 000 to transport 500 tons of gas, said Mac Haldane, owner of Diesel Drive and Oils.
“This is undoubtedly the worst shortage in seven years. Right now we are at a standstill. Our cans are empty. We can’t supply any gas to our customers.”
A 9kg cylinder is being priced at between R190 and R220 at some stores and service stations. Some consumers have claimed to pay as much as R300.
“Everyone is taking advantage of the situation,” Haldane said.
“Yes, I can obtain gas but unfortunately the end user is being punished. Gas prices are going up. Restaurants owners are stressed. Everyone is stressed. We are in a critical situation.”
Haldane said he sent trucks to Mossel Bay on Friday night and expected the gas to arrive on Tuesday or Wednesday.
“The government is constantly encouraging the public to use gas as it is cheaper, but it is not coming to the party. Why is so much gas going out of South Africa to countries like Mozambique instead of addressing the shortage here? We need quick intervention.”
Industry players have confirmed the scarcity of gas, with some saying the Western Cape has been hit hardest
Afrox South Africa spokesman Simon Miller said the company had imported 3 000 tons of gas and plans were under way to bring in 3 000 tons more in the next three months.
Asked if the dearth of gas was severe, Miller said: “I wouldn’t say at this stage we have reached crisis point because we have had warm weather in Joburg. But I believe when it gets cold we could definitely face a crisis.”
Service stations across Joburg are also buckling under the pressure.
Management at an Engen garage in Brackenview said the situation was “desperate”.
Its regular supply was between 300 and 400 gas cylinders a week. The number had dropped significantly, and the filling station had been fighting with suppliers for not distributing fast enough.
In Sandton, the manager of a service station said this week had been a bit better, although stock was lower than in the past two weeks.
A BP garage in Florida also confirmed the shortage.
Matthew Costello at Camel Fuels, a privately owned energy trading company that specialises in the sourcing, trading and distribution of liquid fuels throughout sub-Saharan Africa, said: “Load shedding has certainly increased the use of LPG in this country. The gas has become a viable and affordable way of gaining access to energy.”
Liquefied Petroleum Gas Safety Association of Southern Africa communications chief executive Kevin Robertson told Engineering News that consumers have become increasingly aware of the benefits of LPG.
This had led to individuals and companies entering the market and offering consumers unregulated services.
Efforts to reach Department of Energy spokesman Johannes Mokobane were unsuccessful.