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Soon, pick up cylinders off the shelf

N. Ravi Kumar
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5-kg mini cylinders have been received well by the public in Chennai

Preparing your grocery list for the month? Perhaps, you can order a five-kg cooking gas cylinder too from the same store.

The time may not be far when you can actually ask the friendly neighbourhood kirana shop to deliver an LPG refill like water cans. Picking up cooking cylinders from the shelves of outlets — from stores that sell automobile fuel to those that sell daily use commodities — is on the cards, say oil industry officials.

The sale of 5-kg cylinders was launched at a company outlet each of IOC, Bharat Petroleum Corporation and Hindustan Petroleum Corporation on Saturday. The 5-kg cylinder costs Rs.504 a refill, while the subsidised 14.2-kg LPG bottle is priced around Rs.400.

The initial customer response, say HPCL and IOC sources, has been encouraging. While around 25 connections were sold at the IOC outlet in Adyar, the HPCL outlet in Madhavaram sold a couple of 5-kg cylinders. “It will catch up,” says an official, of the popularity, adding the people also need time to get used to the cost. Sales are yet to commence at the BPCL bunk in Mogappair. Sources in the company said that while there were plenty of enquiries, the company was waiting for the approval of Petroleum and Explosive Safety Organisation since LPG is not among the products for which the licence was issued to the petrol bunks.

Customers are likely to benefit as the documentation process is far simpler for the non-subsidised cylinders. Also, stocking LPG up to a limit does not warrant licence. “An explosives licence is not required [for stocking] up to 100 kg of liquefied petroleum gas,” an official of Indian Oil Corporation says.

However, the absence of inter-company portability could still be an irritant. Thus, the refill can be bought only from petrol bunks of the same company. A lot would then depend on the distance and the cost of transportation from the bunk to the house. Interestingly, the inter-company portability of domestic LPG connections was also launched alongside the sale of the 5-kg cylinders at petrol bunks.

With the cost a concern for many consumers, cooking gas distributors suggest a way out. Since the 5-kg cylinders are also sold at many regular cooking gas agencies of the companies, a customer could book a connection with them and get refills subsequently from petrol bunks of the same company. This makes economic sense as at the distributorships, only a refundable deposit of Rs.500 towards the cylinder and regulator is collected. An additional and important feature is the insurance automatically offered by the agencies.

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