Composite LPG cylinders: the enigma of the European market

Aburi Composites
Jun 02 2015

Composite LPG cylinders: the enigma of the European market

The European Liquefied Petroleum Gas industry is characterised by a comprehensive distribution chain able to facilitate business activity and development anywhere both in Europe and in areas beyond the reach of energy grids.

The market is going to be always more competitive and ready to new challenges, thanks to the support by large multinationals and associations dedicated to the safe and effective development of LP Gas by taking a leading role in the consultation and negotiation with legislators and policy makers, as UKLPG based in UK, AEGPL promoter of the last Congress in Berlin and WLPG, the representative of global voice for the LPG marketers.

Where LPG market is heading towards

According to LPG consumption in Europe report by Argus Consulting Services, the origin of LPG derives from two sources, namely refinery based production and gas processing plants (GPPs). The geographic focus of the report is the 28 European Union member states (EU28), with the addition of Norway, considered as the largest LPG European producer and the majority of Norwegian production is from gas processing.

The countries importing the highest proportion of their imports from GPPs – Gross Primary Production –  are Italy and Sweden but the proportion of consumption from GPP versus refinery origin varies significantly between countries, from over 80pc in Norway and Sweden to less than 10pc in Denmark, Germany and Greece.

Over the years, LPG operators have accumulated a wealth of experience and knowledge that increased their awareness of how it would be essential to proceed through new technologies.

One of the most notable characteristics of the sector in Europe is its ongoing effort to develop a comprehensive set of technical and safety standards.

As mentioned by AEGPL Association, the principal domains covered by LPG’s safety efforts are the following:

  • Use of LPG cylinders at residential and similar premises;
  • Use of LPG cylinders in caravans;
  • Use of LPG in mobile catering vehicles and similar commercial units;
  • Autogas stations;
  • Forklift;
  • Safe handling and transportation;
  • Safe filling.

Currently the European market is struggling to experience composite LPG cylinders, a product that seems to trigger a new challenge in a market, as the LPG one is, very conservative and traditional.

As a matter of fact, the whole world is going to adapt gradually to the new technologies. Currently there are only four companies producing composite LPG cylinders, and one of them is based in Norway. But despite a tangible awareness, the European market’s answer to this new challenge does not seem to reach positive results at the moment, mainly in stable markets, such as UK, where a tradition lasting 75 years seems to be well rooted yet. On the other hand, the German market seems to be more open to new technologies and there’s reason to believe that it might be the first one to be involved in this LPG industry’s revolutionary process.

Which the issues spotted by European LPG operators could be

Not only a price matter, but one of the main issues spotted by the operators regard also the retest ing. Composite LPG cylinders require a five-year retest period, shorter than the steel that needs to be done every ten years. But by the time the product will be completely rooted in the market, it is reasonably believed this period will be extended to a ten-year retest period according to the European standard.

About Composite LPG market

Since the mid-1990s, more than 8 millions composite LPG cylinders have been sold, primarily to propane marketer customers in Europe, South Korea and Australia. In order to witness how composite cylinder is one of the most significant developments in the last 60 years, it is enough to point out its characteristics.

Composite cylinders are formed by wrapping fibreglass fibres around a mandrel in multiple directions and saturating the fibres with resin to create each half of the cylinder. Next, appropriate holes are drilled in each half and the two halves are bonded together to create the cylinder. The completed cylinders are pressure-tested with air.

Because of their translucency, lower weight and lower maintenance requirements, they are much more customer-friendly. Having the chance to see the gas level means having the opportunity to check it out constantly and go and refill only in case of necessity, while its lower in weight makes the cylinder easy to handle and lower maintenance requirements allows to keep lower both maintenance and logistical costs.

Furthermore, the specially engineered interior prevents the cylinder from any kind of damage or corrosion. The helically woven fibre allows the cylinder to resist fire for 3 minutes before any gas is emitted from the cylinder. After 10 minutes the cylinder will burn but remains non-explosive.

They are manufactured with radio frequency identification which allows you to keep track of your cylinders. With RFID knowing “where” and “how” LPG cylinders are being managed is really easy.

Conclusion

In the light of what it has been reported, it would be interesting if LPG cylinders industry found a compromise to open the door to the new composite production, in order to pursue the experimentation way and reach the next step of this progress climb. In other words, the collaboration between the traditional and the innovative worlds would lead to a massive change in this industry based on two fundamental pillars: the experience and the knowledge of the past  industry combined with the the wish to turn it around in accordance to security and safety standards and consumers’ expectations.

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