QCOSTARICA – Buying a cylinder of propane gas in Costa Rica can be risky, given that fourteen out of 100 gas cylinders analyzed by the regulating authority, the Autoridad Reguladora de los Servicios Públicos (Aresep), have leaks, endangering the safety of consumers.
In addition, 50 out of 100 containers have fuel shortages, which is less gas than what the cylinder is supposed to contain and the consumer is paying for, of more than one kilogram.
The Aresep carried out inspections in 87 sales establishments throughout the country.
Gas leaks are a danger to the 710,000 homes in Costa Rica where gas is used for cooking. The gas cylinders that were evaluated correspond to those regularly used in homes, which contain 11.34 kg (25 lb) of LPG.
The poor handling conditions of gas cylinders explain why firefighters attended 22,800 incidents related to gas cylinders between 2015 and 2020. According to data from the Fire Department, on average there are 3,800 emergencies per year or 10 incidents per day.
The Aresep carries out continuous evaluations of the quality, quantity, and safety of the cylinders, from which technical reports are derived for the evaluation of the administrative sanctioning processes.
“One of the strongest points has been the continuous training to create a culture of safe use of gas in both marketers and users, including aspects such as what type of defects to reject immediately in a cylinder (cracks, sags, etc), how to identify aluminum containers and why they (consumers) should not accept them,” stated the Regulatory Authority.
On the other hand, the Aresep indicated that work should be done on how to identify unauthorized seals, learn to perform leak tests on valves at home, as well as know the correct ways to transport, handle and install the cylinder at home.
It is not uncommon for consumers to store gas cylinders inside the home, in the kitchen beside the store.
To this end, with the incidence of leaks and improper storage, the quick coupling valves was prohibited, replaced by the Tipo Pol rosca (threaded) valve.
However, the common gas cylinder used in Costa Rican homes does not have the safety features of the “parrillero” (BBQ) 20 lb cylinders that cut gas flow when the hose is gas hose is disconnected.
However, the 2020 report by the Aresep revealed that 36% of the evaluated cylinders had the threaded valve, which means that the ban imposed on quick coupling has not been followed by the LPG bottling companies.
But these were not the only problems that the study detected, since the information to track the cylinders is almost nil in most of the units; In total, 60% of the cylinders tested did not have serial numbers.
Regarding this failure, Aresep insisted that “it is usually due to the age of the cylinders, which due to wear or repainting causes loss of legibility of the information engraved on the neck, affecting the traceability of the container.”
In this regard, the Aresep assured that since 2017 the container renewal plan began, which has allowed the insertion of around 250,000 new cylinders that have all the information.
However, they recognize that it is a gradual process.
Companies bottle less gas than they charge
Another of the findings revealed by the report is that Costa Ricans are overpaying for cylinders, since 52% of the containers contained, on average, 1.04 kg (about 10%) less product.
The units with the most shortages are from the Petrogas company, where 81% of the cylinders analyzed had an average of 1 kg less. Cylinders from the Tomza company presented problems in 63% of the analyzed containers, with an average of 1.3 kg less.
The Gas Nacional Zeta company had serious defects in 29% of its units.
This is a recurring problem that has not yet been solved by Aresep, for the year 2019 a similar study detected that 70% of cylinders had less LPG than what was being charged the consumer.
As argued by the Regulatory Authority, the companies have indicated that the impacts and variations are related to the nature of the type of cylinder filling that is manual, as well as problems in the tare of the cylinders, human errors, and the combination of these factors.
“In this regard, it is clarified that all these possible causes are the responsibility of the bottling company that provides the public service in accordance with the obligations established by law and the concession.
“The justifications given by the companies, given the quantity of problems identified, are not acceptable to the Regulatory Authority, precisely because the provider companies cannot transfer their management problems to the users of the regulated public service and must comply with all technical criteria established, including the quantity norms,” assured Aresep.