Shortage of gas begins to squeeze

2011-10-20 00:00

GAS distributors in Pietermaritzburg are feeling the pinch as a result of shortages that have affected much of the country.

Some city suppliers of liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) told The Witness yesterday that the four days they have gone without gas has cost them thousands of rands.

Said MJ Distributors owner Melanie Shrives, “We have to make a business decision after four days without gas. We had to put staff on short time and we are losing more than R250 000 a week as a result of this but no one is giving us answers about what’s happening in this industry.”

She said that “when this problem started big companies blamed the truck drivers’ strike in July, but now they don’t want to tell us what’s happening.”

An employee at Gas & General in the CBD, who declined to be named, said that for the past week the outlet has not received supplies. Normally it receives gas daily.

She said, “This has impacted very badly on our business and we have to turn the customers away. Every time we see someone with a gas cylinder we walk up to them before they even get out of the car and tell them we can’t help them.”

Said Roy Sivemangal, manager at Airflex Industrial Gases, “The shortage of LP gas products has had an unprecedented impact on the industry at large, as well as the hospitality and domestic markets. If there is no quick fix in sight some serious repercussions will follow … hopefully supplies will resume early next week.”

The Department of Energy said in a statement that the shortage is due to refineries being shut down because of ageing infrastructure. Four of South Africa’s six refineries are reportedly not in a position to produce LPG this week.

The department has been convening regular logistics planning meetings since the exemption was granted by the Competition Commission to import LPG.

The department said the shortage is also having an effect on the supply of bitumen, used in the production of asphalt, which is used in road construction.

The department is looking to import the infrastructure needed to get the refineries operating again.

“There is clearly a need for a long-term solution to deal with ageing manufacturing infrastructure,” said acting energy director general George Mnguni.

A BP South Africa spokesperson said supplies will be back to normal soon.

• mlondi.radebe@witness.co.za

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