The LPG bottling plant at Udayamperoor is working overtime, bullet tanker operations are back to normal and the waitlist for refill is getting shorter. It means respite is in sight for the “burning problem” of Kochiites.
The district administration, which is keeping a watch on cooking gas distribution, hopes things will swing back to being normal in a week.
“The backlog of the IOC should be cleared within a week with the bottling plant functioning smoothly and bullet tankers resuming operations. Customers seem more concerned about the purpose of Know-Your-Customer forms and the implications of having multiple connections,” said District Collector P.I. Sheikh Pareed.
The district administration took up monitoring as acute shortage of cooking gas cylinders, especially belonging to the Indian Oil Corporation (IOC), threatened to swell into a law-and-order problem with the gas agencies being mobbed by desperate customers. While the situation is far from normal now, it has improved considerably.
IOC sources confirmed that the backlog should be cleared within a week provided there are no further hiccups like a hartal or labour problems in the coming days. The oil company now has a backlog of 30 days. At the peak of the crisis, customers had to wait for more than 60 days after booking a refill. IOC accounts for more than 70 per cent of the market share in LPG distribution.
LPG leakage at IOC’s bottling plant at Udayamperoor coupled with LPG tanker accident at Chala in Kannur had put the break on distribution. While the bottling plant was forced to shut shop for some days following the accident, the Chala accident disrupted bullet tanker operations, which is the backbone of bulk supply of gas for IOC.
IOC sources said bullet tankers operations have been almost normal for the last two weeks and this has eased the strain on distribution. The bottling plant at Udayamperoor is being served by 35 tankers carrying bulk gas mainly from Mangalore and Chennai.
At present, about 140 loads of 300 cylinders each are rolled out of the IOC plant daily compared to 150 loads before the crisis. The oil company is operating its plant on Sundays too, to make up for the shortfall.
Apart from Ernakulam, the Udayamperoor plant serves Kottayam, Alapuzha, Idukki, Thrissur, and some areas of Palakkad districts. Of these, Ernakulam district was the worst affected. Sources said if not for the adjustments made in the distribution to other districts, the entire supply to Ernakulam would have been cut off.
Bharat Petroleum Corporation Limited (BPCL) hardly had any backlog except may be for some distributor-specific issues in the market, sources said. The bottling plant at Ambalamugal is dispatching 65-70 loads a day without fail. BPCL sources said the oil company has tie-ups with private bottlers to save the distribution from any hold-ups.
Though the BPCL is receiving inquiries from frustrated IOC subscribers, the company is not entertaining them as it would strain their supply chain. Though the oil company has a policy of delivering refills within 48 hours of booking, the peculiar situation in the State where everyone books the very day they receives a fresh re-fill has made its implementation difficult. Sources said a good number of cylinders go undelivered because the some customers do not have an empty cylinder to hand over to the delivery person because they have made a premature booking.
While the bottling plant of the Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Limited (HPCL) at Irumpanam is operating as usual, thanks to the supply of gas through pipeline from Kochi Refineries, the same is not the case with its plant at Palakkad. Sources said that the Palakkad plant is operating at below 50 per cent of its capacity as the bullet tanker operations are yet to become normal since the Chala incident.