The scheme is likely to be rolled out in Kochi and Thiruvananthapuram districts initially; LPG firms confident of retaining their numbers
Public sector oil companies do not foresee their respective subscriber bases draining away following the LPG portability scheme that the Union government proposes to introduce shortly.
They, however, feel that the real impact of the scheme can be assessed only a couple of months into its implementation. In the State, the scheme is likely to be rolled out in Kochi and Thiruvananthapuram districts initially.
Indian Oil Corporation (IOC), with the biggest LPG subscriber base in the State, is confident about keeping their customers intact banking on its better network and larger number of distribution agencies compared to their rivals. Sources with the oil company told The Hindu that the discontent among the subscribers due to the delay in the delivery of cooking gas cylinders is unlikely to translate into shifting of subscribers to rival oil companies.
A senior official said the delay was not unique to the State but was a national phenomenon due to the demand and supply factors. Besides, the company with its three bottling plants in Kochi, Kollam, and Kozhikode with a capacity of dispatching about 280 loads a day was fully equipped to meet any possible surge in its subscriber base owing to LPG portability, he said.
BPCL sources said it was hard to predict whether the portability scheme would add to its subscriber base of 20 lakh in the State. There is unlikely to be a large influx of customers from one company to the other. In fact, there could more of a shift of subscribers from inefficient distributors to better serving ones rather than inter-company shifting. But it all depends on how user-friendly the proposed scheme will be.
While the subscribers could apply for portability online, the rest of the formalities would have to be completed manually, a BPCL official said. The company has a bottling plant each in Kochi and Thiruvananthapuram in addition to which it avails of the service of its plant at Mangalore and private bottlers. It is in the process of adding a second filling machine at its plant in Kochi, which will double its capacity from the present 65 loads a day.
HPCL has already completed preliminary works, including the preparation of area-wise list of distribution clusters ahead of the launch of the scheme. At 9.50 lakh, the oil company has the lowest subscriber base, accounting for just 16 per cent of the total volume of LPG distributed in the State. It has a bottling plant each at Palakkad and Kochi with a combined turnout capacity of about 111 loads a day.
“The capacity of our plants is much higher compared to the demand in the State. While the plant at Palakkad operates two shifts a day, a portion of the cylinders is distributed in Tamil Nadu. Besides, the plant at Kochi operates only one shift. So, if there is a surge in our customer base we can easily cater to it,” an official with HPCL said.