A GHC60 million investment by the Liquefied Petroleum Gas Marketing Companies (LPGMCs) Association into building about 100 LPG retail outlets before the 2017 Atomic Junction accident is at risk of going down the drain.
The government, after the incident which happened on 27 October 2017, placed a ban on new LPG retail points.
The decision was to allow for proper safety, health and environmental assessment of all LPG outlets across the country; but nearly four years on government is yet to lift the ban, thereby leaving the 100 outlets at risk of going waste according to the Association.
Apart from fearing that their investment will go waste if the ban is not lifted immediately, the marketers say they are also under pressure to repay loans contracted to build the retail outlets.
“These outlets had gone through all the necessary rigorous regulatory processes, appraisals and received the necessary green light before the commencement of acquisitions, construction and investment. In all, our members made about GHC60million worth of investments into the acquisition of these outlets,” a statement from the Association read.
Out of the 100, the statement said, 14 of the outlets had been completed and were awaiting pre-commissioning permits from the National Petroleum Authority (NPA); 21 had received fire permits, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) permits, Metropolitan Municipal and District Assembly Development (MMDA) permits, as well as NPA construction permits; and the rest had received ‘no objection’ letters and were at different regulatory permitting stages.
“Much as our Association is not against such government directives, it would be sad to allow our meagre and hard-earned resources to go to waste – especially when these investments were made not contrary to the law and regulations but in accordance with existing laws and regulations at the time,” it said, adding that together with regulators, the industry has since experienced a sustained period of safety.
The LPGMCs petitioned and engaged the government through the NPA in a bid to get the ban lifted. Subsequently, the embargo was partially lifted at the end of 2020 and the NPA was supposed to process the list of stations under construction before the Atomic Junction accident, and issue permits to enable them to operate. However, this has not been done.
“The above notwithstanding and considering the total investment that had already gone into development of the stations under construction, coupled with the fact that various permits were legally obtained, the LPGMCs are urgently appealing to the government for permission to be allowed to complete all the stations under construction within a specified period and operate them,” it said in a fresh petition sighted by the paper to Minister of Energy, Dr Matthew Opoku Prempeh.
The Association further urged that as the new LPG policy – the Cylinder Recirculation Model (CRM) – has not yet started, government should allow them to complete all projects pending before the Atomic Junction accident.
“It would only be fair to allow our members to complete and operate all the outlets under construction because these same outlets will in future become cylinder exchange points when the CRM is eventually rolled out. Thus, this nation will avoid drowning local investments while providing employment to the youth, making a significant contribution to the economy through taxes, and increasing the penetration of LPG among the population as well as reducing the dependency on wood fuels to save our forests,” a portion of the petition read.
“We believe that the issues raised above, when considered carefully and acted upon, will address our concerns and thereby lead to a vibrant LPG downstream industry in Ghana to benefit all stakeholders, especially government,” it concluded.
When contacted the executives of the Association declined to comment on the issue. Although they admitted sending the petition, they told the B&FT they are waiting for the minister’s response and action.