More than 80 lakh households in Kerala have liquified petroleum gas connections. That is almost 100 per cent coverage. The state, however, is not a saturated market. The consumption of LPG in Kerala last year was about 8 lakh tonnes. It is expected to go up to 22 lakh tonnes in 10 years. And, the three public sector oil marketing companies that dominate LPG distribution in Kerala have big plans for the state.
The biggest of them is Indian Oil Corporation’s LPG import terminal at Puthuvype in Kochi. A multi-user liquid terminal (MULT), which can be used by other companies as well, is also under construction at Puthuvype. Once the terminal is connected to the Kochi Refinery, the Kochi-Salem LPG pipeline and the bulk terminal at Palakkad, it will be one of the biggest infrastructure projects in the state. “We have a joint venture with Bharat Petroleum Corporation Ltd (which operates Kochi Refinery),” said P.S. Mony, state head and chief general manager, IOC. “The Kochi-Salem LPG pipeline is being laid. This pipeline will go via IOC’s Udayamperoor LPG bottling plant, Kochi Refinery and Palakkad LPG terminal. The total investment of the project would be around Rs 2,200 crore.”
The main objective of the terminal, which has a capacity of 6 lakh tonnes, is easing the backlog of LPG supply in Kerala. More importantly, however, it will minimise the movement of bullet tankers carrying LPG across the state. Some 125 bullet tankers ply the narrow highways of Kerala every day carrying LPG from Mangaluru to IOC’s bottling plans in Kozhikode (Chelari), Kochi (Udayamperoor) and Kollam (Parippally). These trucks cause accidents very often, especially in the northern districts.
A fully functional import terminal at Puthuvype will significantly reduce the ingress of bullet tankers from Mangaluru. “About 50 of them supply to the Udayamperoor plant. Some 40 go to Chelari and 35 go to Kollam. Once the pipeline between Udayamperoor and Puthuvype, and the planned pipeline to Kozhikode are done, 90 of these trucks can be eliminated,” said Mony.
The Puthuvype terminal is of huge importance to IOC in meeting the demand for LPG. “India imports about 50 per cent of LPG it requires. This is likely to go up considering the expected growth. We have already put up 13 LPG import terminals,” said Mony.
Some of the local residents of Puthuvype, however, have not been happy about the project, and they allege that it does not have the required environmental clearance and safety measures. They have been holding protests, often impeding the construction.
Mony said such concerns were misplaced. “We got the environment clearance for the import terminal in 2010 and for the MULT in 2016,” he said. The terminal will store LPG in mounded vessels made of 45-mm thick boiler quality steel plates and will be buried deep in the sand, surrounded by a 1.25-metre-thick reinforced concrete wall. “The terminal is being equipped with automatic fire-protection systems,” he said. “The coastal stretch of the project is only 690 metres and will not disturb fishing activities.” Mony said the protests had delayed the project by a year. It would start functioning by the beginning of 2019.