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Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) is a gaseous fuel obtained during petroleum refining and consists mainly of butane or propane. LPG can also be obtained from fossil coal. LPG is non-toxic, easy to handle, energy efficient and burns very cleanly. See also article on Cooking with LPG.
LPG stoves are very convenient for users as they heat up quickly and temperature can be precisely controlled. However, LPG stoves are mainly used by middle and high income groups in urban areas due to higher capital investment into devices and higher running costs for fuel. In rural areas, LPG supply can be unreliable, if accessible at all. Less wealthier households tend to use LPG as a minor part of their energy mix especially in situations when smaller food amounts need to be heated fast, e.g. at breakfast.
The important feature of LPG is that its stove efficiency of about 55-60% is much higher than that of many other stoves.
A typical LPG cooking system is made up of a steel cylinder filled with LPG, a pressure controller, a tube connecting the cylinder to the pressure controller and the burner, and finally the burner itself. The burner can consist of one or more cooking tops.
The size of the system depends on the size of the cylinder. Cylinders exist in various sizes e.g.: 2.7 kg, 6 kg, 12 kg or 16 kg. A survey in 20 countries showed that low-income countries households mainly use cylinders smaller than 6 kg. Nevertheless, the majority of currently available LPG cylinders are larger (up to 47.5 kg). This proves problematic for low-income households both in the acquisition as well as the recharge of LPG.
Households require capital to buy hardware such as the LPG stove and the cylinder. LPG stoves cost around 30-100 US$. This is a barrier for many households. In Nigeria for example, a competitive kerosene-based cooking systems is 83 % cheaper. Furthermore, households need to be able to pay the running costs for LPG. The price of LPG is affected by taxes, subsidies and market distribution costs.
The illustration below shows how LPG stoves compare to other stove types in terms of upfront and lifetime costs.
Efficiency and Emissions
Traditional LPG stove models have a fuel efficiency of about 55%. Newer designs can even reach about 90% fuel efficiency. However, many of these models are quite expensive.
LPG stoves can lead to household air pollution reductions of 90% compared to open fires or traditional stoves, if used exclusively. However, the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves resumes that few impact evaluations have focused on consumers’ use of LPG stoves. Field research also suggests that, while theoretical benefits can be significant (i.e., elimination of most negative health effects of solid fuel cooking), actual impacts are likely to fall far below this potential because many users along LPG stoves still continue to use traditional stoves. Besides the frequency of use also the correct use of LPG stoves is of relevance. Although LPG stoves typically emit much lower levels of CO than most alternatives when operating under optimal conditions, CO can be emitted at unsafe, high levels when the stove, particularly the burners are not maintained properly.
As for kerosene stoves, consumer education is important for LPG because they are responsible for proper storage and operation after sale. Malfunctioning LPG cylinders can cause explosions, and improper fuel storage poses risks to the entire household. Accidents are rare, but perception of LPG’s danger among consumers is strong in some regions. A study in Guatemala for example showed that safety concerns and poor quality cylinders were one of the key barriers to LPG uptake. Participants in focus group discussions reported feeling unsafe using the LPG cylinder and stove. Information or instructions on safe installation or use were not given to users. Poor cylinder quality, damage and leakage contributed to the poor impression users had of LPG. Cylinders were usually old and damaged. Most of the participants had heard cases of explosion, burns, and have experienced leakage.
Newly developed cylinders have porous skins so that the LPG can escape without exploding if subjected to a fire. However, the high price of these cylinders still prevents their large-scale market distribution.
Advantages and Disadvantages of LPG Stoves
- LPG is a clean fuel (comparable with biogas); it releases less pollutants than any other fuel except electricity.
- LPG stoves are easy to light.
- LPG stoves quickly supply heat and work more efficient than stoves which burn biomass.
- On LPG stoves cooking is fast.
- Simple and precise heat regulation.
- Convenient to use, because of the above mentioned points.
- LPG is an exhaustible resource
- Initial investment to buy both stove and gas-cylinder are usually high without subsidies.
- Low-income households often cannot afford to make the up-front investment in cylinders. Duty and tax relief for appliances meant for low-income people may also help in this regard.
- The fuel is costly: its high price prevents its use in rural areas where cash for fuel is frequently not available and biomass fuel is gathered for free.
- The fuel supply can be unreliable: Particularly if LPG is imported from outside, fuel supply in rural but also in urban areas can be unpredictable.
- Supply and distribution of LPG entail large investments in storage, transport and handling systems. This constrains availability and escalates costs in most markets within Africa.
- Varying types of regulators limit competition in the market and restricts customers to using a single brand of LPG. I.e. if their dealer is out of canisters, they cannot go to another retailer and buy a different cylinder, because it uses a different regulator. There are initiatives to standardize on a single regulator type throughout the East African region to prevent this problem. Policy efforts like this will enable smooth growth of the market.
- Cooking on LPG stoves can be perceived as dangerous by potential users.
This article was originally published by GIZ HERA. It is basically based on experiences, lessons learned and information gathered by GIZ cook stove projects. You can find more information about the authors and experts of the original “Cooking Energy Compendium” in the Imprint.
- ↑ 1.0 1.1 GIZ HERA (2014): Multiple-Household Fuel Use – a balanced choice between firewood, charcoal and LPG. https://energypedia.info/images/3/32/2014-03_Multiple_Household_Cooking_Fuels_GIZ_HERA_eng.pdf
- ↑ World Bank (2011): The Role of Liquefied Petroleum Gas in Reducing Energy Poverty. http://siteresources.worldbank.org/INTOGMC/Resources/LPGReportWeb-Masami.pdf
- ↑ 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 World Bank, ESMAP, Global Alliance (2015): The State of the Global Clean and Improved Cooking Sector. Technical Report 007/15. http://www.cooking-for-life.org/uploads/Modules/Documents/world-bank-report-on-the-state-of-global-clean-cooking.pdf
- ↑ TDL (August 27, 2013): Hindering Growth of Nigeria’s LPG Market with Kerosene Subsidy. http://www.thisdaylive.com/articles/hindering-growth-of-nigeria-s-lpg-market-with-kerosene-subsidy/157397/
- ↑ Smith KR, Rogers J, Cowlin SC (2005) Household Fuels and Ill-Health in Developing Countries: What improvements can be brought by LP Gas? http://bit.ly/2hg0PWN
- ↑ Eneris, Public Health Institute (2015): Scaling Up Demand for LPG in Guatemala: Motivators, Barriers and Opportunities. http://www.cooking-for-life.org/uploads/Modules/Documents/eneris-lpg-study_final.pdf
- ↑ GTZ (2007): Eastern Africa Resource Base: GTZ Online Regional Energy Resource Base: Regional and Country Specific Energy Resource Database: I - Energy Technology
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