Nepal Braces For Propane Cooking Gas Shortage

Worshippers in the Nepalese capital of Katmandu celebrate the annual Dashain festival. There are fears of a severe propane shortage during this year's festive season. (image: blogspot.com)

Nepalese officials are warning of a looming cooking gas shortage because the national oil supplier is not importing enough propane.

“There is not sufficient liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) imports since June, which could create a shortage during the festive season,” LPG bottlers said in a statement.

LPG, or liquid petroleum gas – also known as propane – is widely used for cooking and heating throughout Asia and the Himalayan region. The National Oil Corporation (NOC) has imported nearly 10,000 metric tons of the gas for the last two months. But it represents only about two-thirds of market demand, the LPG Bottlers Association warned, adding that current demand nationally was 16,000 metric tons.

“We don’t have [enough] stock of cooking gas even for a day,” bottlers association president Sawarmal Agrawal said. “If the import rate of the last two months continues, the market will face severe shortages.”

The situation was made worse because two major festivals – Dashain and Tihar – are scheduled from September to November, when Nepalese people historically consume 40 per cent more fuel. There were severe propane shortages during the festivals two years ago.

However, NOC officials are rejecting the possibility of scarcity during this year’s festive seasons.

“Of course there is no stock at present, [but] there is no scarcity in the market,” said NOC state general manager Digambar Jha. “We are importing just adequate cooking gas to avoid [financial] losses.”

NOC was lifting imports this month ahead of the festivals and he was confident gas supply would be enough to avert shortages.

The United States is a major producer of propane thanks to its large shale gas reserves. But even though production of propane has been growing significantly, domestic propane inventories have been lagging behind last year’s levels because of strong overseas demand from countries like China, India and Nepal.

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