Expect a Gas Revolution

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By Petronella Sibeene WINDHOEK Considerable progress has been recorded in the construction of a multi-million dollar Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) depot in Windhoek. The Operations Director of Autogas, Tom Mukaiwa, said since the groundbreaking ceremony of the depot in April this year, significant work has been done on the site and that the depot would be commissioned by next month. This week, a team of experts from South Africa is expected in the country to install the gas tanks and piping. Once in operation, the depot will have a monthly gas capacity of 250 000 liters. Mukaiwa added that this capacity is likely to double during the first few months of full operation, especially that more people have of late shown interest in converting their vehicles from petrol to LPG. In the past few months, Namibia like most countries in the world has witnessed hikes in fuel prices. Though LPG is a by-product of petrol, he explained that the price hike margins for gas would not be as high when compared to petrol. According to Mukaiwa, the fuel price hikes already have had a positive effect on the demand for LPG as more people have started showing great interest in LPG as compared to petrol. “The response is good so far. The only barrier that could be there is capital, whereby even if some people would want to convert their cars, they cannot afford,” he added. The firm is considering looking at the financial options to help more Namibians have their cars gas operated. “We will see if we can do it with the government because countries such as France, government-subsidize the conversion of cars,” he said. Further, catering and hospitality service providers have also seen the advantages of using LPG by converting their electric stoves into gas cookers. “We signed a contract with Nandos recently. We will continue seeing a high demand for gas,” he explained. Currently, Autogas Namibia converts five vehicles per day. Unlike in the past months where it would take two days to convert one vehicle, it now takes six hours for the job to be done. The improvement is attributed to local people now getting confident in their work. There are nine young Namibians currently employed. By April this year, the firm had earmarked about 800 cars for conversion at the National Planning Commission (NPC). The company has already started spreading its wings to other major towns. Already, site preparations are underway at Oshakati with a 22 000-liter tank to be filled with gas once everything is in place. Last week, a meeting was held in Tsumeb to discuss the possibilities of establishing a station in that area which is densely populated by farmers. Mukaiwa says plans are to have stations in Oshakati, Otavi, Rundu, Gobabis and Walvis Bay, and before the end of the year all these five stations are expected to will be functional. The depot, worth approximately N$5 million once constructed, will not only supplement the existing fuel supplies, but will also help to enhance the distribution of this resource to other parts of the country, where Autogas intends spreading its wings. The use of Autogas does not hinder the car operator from switching to the usage of other fuel kinds. As the cost of fuel is steadily going up and in the process affecting the cost of products and the pocket of the service user, the use of Autogas is anticipated to lower fuel costs by about 50 per cent.