The wait for cooking gas refill cylinders for several lakh households in the State is set to get longer as bottling plants of oil marketing companies are running out of stock and the replenishments are not in sight with the bulk LPG transporters deciding to prolong their strike.

The decision of the transporters, at their meeting in Namakkal on Monday, is a matter of concern to many millions of households in the rest of south India and Goa too, as the vehicles are a crucial link in the LPG supply chain of oil companies in the region.

In Tamil Nadu alone, the customer base of oil companies is 1.20 crore, of which around 25 lakh consumers are in and around Chennai.

Backlog

The strike, which began on Thursday and is the second this year by the transporters, has already seen an increase in refill bookings. The protest by vehicle operators by not lifting supplies from refineries and terminals came at a time when cooking gas agencies were struggling to clear the backlog that had piled up due to the previous protest in January and the increase in demand due to festivals.

Barring a few bottling plants that are fed by pipelines such as that of IOTL in Manali or have rail links (such as BPCL's facility in Coimbatore) most of the others will go dry, State-level coordinator for the oil industry (Tamil Nadu and Puducherry) V.K.Jayachandran told The Hindu.

However, consumers getting supplies from bottling plants, which are not dependent on the LPG bullet tankers, are also likely to feel the heat as the oil companies make use of such facilities to cater to other customers too. Indane sources said that even distributors attached to the Ennore plant would be supplied from IOTL facility.

In effect, all Indane distributors are likely to get loads but far less than their requirements.

IOTL plant bottles around 100 loads (each load is a little over 300 cylinders) daily, the Ennore facility supplies 140 loads a day, sources said.

On Monday, only one shift of bottling was possible at the Ennore plant.

Regarding the next course of action, sources in the oil industry said the Union Petroleum Ministry has been apprised of the situation and it is likely to take up the issue with the State government.

Meanwhile, sources in the State government said there still is a ray of hope as the transporters have indicated that they will return to the negotiation table either on Wednesday or Thursday.