Global Glance: A Growing Propane Market on the Subcontinent

A Bharatgas deliveryman makes the rounds in Pune, India. (image: uberkenny via flickr.com)

India, the second most populous country in the world, is making moves to expand the propane market in rural parts of the country. The gas, used primarily for cooking fuel, is sold predominantly in cities. But over the next two years, the Indian government plans to provide LPG connections to seven million rural homes, reports the Economic Times of India. In addition, the country’s oil ministry has set a goal for energy companies to connect 10 million homes a year until 2015, with a focus on villages.

There are about 14 million residential propane customers in the United States.

To ease the program’s launch, the government will subsidize installation and fuel costs. Officials have said they want to make the fuel more accessible for rural residents who rely on wood and kerosene in the kitchen.

Though a surge in demand may come from more than the kitchen. The Times of India sees potential for propane to power more cars, making this assessment: “Seems like in near future the environment friendly fuels like CNG and LPG will take over its nearest rival petrol, considering the fact that petrol has started burning a bigger hole in the pockets of its customers.” Propane sells for about 65-percent of the price of gas in India — almost exactly the same ratio we see here.

Meanwhile, in neighboring Bangladesh (the 8th most populous country in the world) the government is urging more propane on the people. Last week, the energy ministry said that using LPG would help combat a “gas crisis” — natural gas, that is — in the country, according to Energy Bangla. Bangladesh imports about 80-percent of its propane.

A quick lesson in Bengali petro-history: The state-owned petroleum company instituted the country’s propane market in the mid-1970s, but after rising demand in the 1990s, allowed the gas to go private.

The executive summary on all of this? Demand for propane on the Subcontinent is going up.

(An endnote on using propane or LPG. “Propane” is the preferred word in the US. Overseas, “LPG,” or the acronym for liquefied propane gas, is common parlance. Both are propane.)

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