Gas shortage: pressure mounts during cold snap

2011-07-06 00:00

COLD weather, rising electricity costs and now an unwanted gas shortage is facing Pietermaritzburg residents.

Some local liquid petroleum gas (LPG) suppliers have been without gas since Friday last week, while others report their supplies are running short.

“We have got no gas, not even a drop,” said AM Gas owner Ashley Maharaj in Raisethorpe.

Since last week’s gas shortage, Maharaj said, he has turned away nearly 1 000 customers.

An employee of Gas & General on Greyling Street said there is a “huge shortage” and with the cold weather it is not a good situation to be in.

Southgate Service Station has a limited amount of gas and employee Chrisna Fourie said she does not know when the shortage will be resolved. It cannot get nine-kilogram gas bottles, which is what many consumers want.

Hilton Gas Worx co-owner Mike Smith said demand is high in Pietermaritzburg, but he still has supplies. He said he hopes the matter would be sorted out quickly.

National gas supplier Afrox is having to import gas, which will only arrive at the end of July.

This comes after refineries across the country closed for maintenance and one refinery “went down” three weeks ago, said Afrox spokesperson Simon Miller.

Consumers will not face higher prices for imported gas because the cost of LPG is regulated by government.

Miller said the entire country is running low on gas.

Easigas marketing manager Lorraine van Wyk said refineries in South Africa are old and have planned maintenance scheduled at various times. Sometimes “unplanned maintenance” is necessary too.

The shortage is compounded by the increased demand resulting from the cold weather.

Easigas’s import license has been approved and it expects its first consignment to arrive between July 15 and 20.

Van Wyk said that at one stage this year three of the six refineries nationally “were not working at 100%”.

Situated south of Durban, the South African Petroleum Refinery (Sapref), of which BP and Shell are shareholders, is “operating well” with intermittent problems. It is under planned maintenance this week, Van Wyk said. She could not say for how long it will be closed.

The Witness contacted Sapref and was referred to BP and Shell instead. After repeated attempts to contact them, The Witness was referred back to Sapref. No one was available for comment.

The only person who could speak to The Witness at the South African Oil and Gas Alliance was not available yesterday as he was said to be in meetings the whole day.

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