LPG Reticulation

LPG, or liquefied petroleum gas, is a common source of energy for cooking, heating, and water heating in many households. In Kenya, LPG is the most common form of clean cooking with many households in urban areas using it due to its convenience and affordability.

The conventional method of supplying LPG to consumers involves using gas cylinders that need to be replaced or refilled periodically. These vary in size, from as little as 3 kg to 50 kg cylinders, and even bigger installations for commercial use. LPG is readily accessible in Kenya with many providers providing doorstep delivery services and at the moment, there are systems that allow pay-as-you-go access system such as the one run by M-GAS.

Distribution of LPG using cylinders can be inconvenient, costly, and unsafe for many reasons. This is the reason why in some places, gas is piped into homes, just like water, and metered so that users pay to the utility provider depending on their consumption. This is called LPG reticulation and it is something that the Kenyan Government has been planning to implement.

In this post, we will explain what LPG reticulation is, how it works, and what are the benefits of installing it in your home.

What is LPG Reticulation?

LPG reticulation is a system that uses a piped network to directly supply LPG to individual flats or houses from a centralized gas bank or bulk storage facility. The gas bank consists of a number of gas cylinders or a large tank that are connected to a manifold and a pressure regulator. The regulator controls the pressure and flow of gas to the pipeline network that reaches each consumer’s kitchen.

The gas usage by each consumer is measured by a meter installed in their premises. The meter records the volume of gas consumed and displays it in cubic meters or liters. The consumers pay only for the amount of gas they use as per the meter readings.

LPG reticulation is an advanced and sophisticated system that is installed as per the stringent guidelines of the oil and gas industries. The system is designed to ensure safety, efficiency, and convenience for the consumers.

How Does LPG Reticulation Work?

The LPG reticulation system works in the following way:

  • The gas bank or bulk storage facility is located in a safe and accessible area within the premises of the residential complex or building. The gas bank is regularly inspected and maintained by the service provider or supplier.
  • The gas bank is connected to the pipeline network that runs underground or along the walls of the building. The pipeline network is made of high-quality carbon steel pipes that are corrosion-resistant and leak-proof.
  • The pipeline network branches out to each consumer’s kitchen through a riser pipe that enters their flat or house. The riser pipe is fitted with an isolation valve that allows the consumer to shut off the gas supply in case of an emergency.
  • The riser pipe connects to a meter that measures and records the gas consumption by each consumer. The meter has a digital display that shows the current reading and the previous reading. The meter also has a safety device that cuts off the gas supply if there is a leakage or an abnormal pressure drop.
  • The meter connects to a flexible hose that connects to the consumer’s gas stove or appliance. The flexible hose has a quick-release coupling that allows the consumer to disconnect and reconnect the appliance easily.

What are the Benefits of LPG Reticulation?

LPG reticulation offers several benefits over the conventional cylinder supply method, such as:

  • Uninterrupted gas supply: With LPG reticulation, you never have to worry about running out of gas or waiting for a cylinder refill. You always have access to 24/7 gas supply at your command.
  • Safety: With LPG reticulation, you eliminate the risk of fire hazards, cylinder explosions, manual handling injuries, and thefts associated with gas cylinders. The system is equipped with various safety devices and features that prevent accidents and ensure compliance with safety standards.
  • Convenience: With LPG reticulation, you save time, money, and space by avoiding the hassle of ordering, storing, changing, and disposing of gas cylinders. You also avoid the entry of delivery boys inside your house who may pose a security threat or damage your property.
  • Accuracy: With LPG reticulation, you pay only for what you use as per the meter readings. You do not have to pay any fixed charges, deposits, rentals, or subsidies that are applicable for cylinder supply. You also get transparent and accurate billing from your service provider or supplier.
  • Value addition: With LPG reticulation, you add value to your property by enhancing its aesthetics, functionality, and appeal. You also contribute to environmental conservation by reducing carbon emissions and waste generation from cylinder transportation and disposal.

Disadvantages of LPG Reticulation

LPG reticulation is not without its drawbacks, and some of them are as follows:

  • High installation and maintenance costs: LPG reticulation requires a significant initial investment to install the gas bank, the pipeline network, the meters, and the safety devices. It also requires regular maintenance and inspection by the service provider or supplier to ensure the system is functioning properly and safely. The consumers may have to bear some of these costs as part of their monthly charges or service fees.
  • Dependency on the service provider or supplier: LPG reticulation depends on the availability and reliability of the service provider or supplier who delivers and refills the gas cylinders or tanks in the gas bank. If there is any delay, disruption, or shortage in the supply of gas, the consumers may face inconvenience or interruption in their gas usage. The consumers may also have to deal with issues such as billing disputes, service quality, and customer support from the service provider or supplier.
  • Risk of leakage or explosion: LPG reticulation involves the use of high-pressure gas that is transported through pipes that may be exposed to external factors such as corrosion, damage, or sabotage. If there is any leakage or rupture in the pipeline network, it may cause a fire hazard or an explosion that may endanger the lives and properties of the consumers and others. The system also requires proper ventilation and detection devices to prevent suffocation or poisoning from gas accumulation in case of leakage12.

LPG Reticulation in Kenya

Will LPG reticulation work in Kenya? This is not an easy question. An easy example to compare with would be water supply. Many Kenyans are willing and able to pay for a reliable water supply but they cannot get it, despite having piped water. They are forced to buy storage containers because of unreliable supply. Won’t LPG reticulation follow the same path?

There are also concerns about costs associated with installations and the general safety of handling LPG reticulation systems. However, this is already in use some commercial installations and also very similar to biogas systems, although biogas is not supplied under high pressure.

As with many other government policies, we cannot be sure how successful this will be. Remember the distribution of subsidized gas cylinders to low-income households under the liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) growth policy?