Cooking gas consumers  in Jeddah are experiencing difficulties getting a refill after GASCO , the sole gas-producing company in the Kingdom, notified consumers that they should switch over to the new safety valve, commonly known as a regulator, which was introduced recently.
Most consumers in Jeddah continue to use the old valve, but this is gradually being phased out with the new valve, which has more safety features. Gas agencies are turning down customers who approach them for a cylinder refill  with the old valve, stating that they will have to keep checking for the availability of such cylinders. If, however, a customer buys a new valve costing SR19, then a refill is made available immediately.
Mohammed Abdul Karim, an Ethiopian expatriate, told Arab News on Monday that he has been running behind four gas agencies, all of whom asked him to come the following day for old valve cylinders. Frustrated by the hunt for an old valve cylinder, he decided to buy the new valve and he received a cylinder instantly. Mohammed Zubai, a Pakistani expatriate, said: “The new valve releases gas very slowly, which affects cooking because of the low flame. The old valve was good for wider spaces, whereas the new one is different.” Gas agencies are also not clearly spelling out the policy behind new and old valves, which is what led customers to believe that there was a shortage in supply of gas cylinders  when this, in fact, was not the case. GASCO has asked customers to change the current serrated gas cylinder valve (horizontal) with the new vertical self-closing valve powered by a safety valve to reduce the pressure inside the cylinder to prevent possible damage. The company introduced the new regulator to control cylinder gas pressure and flow following an official directive from Civil Defense authorities. The standardization also determined gas pressure release with a 30 mm bar with a gas flow of 1,500 gram an hour. It prohibits any change to the pressure inside the cylinder more than the allowed specification for safety reasons. During the recent Civil Defense Week, officials stressed the need for consumers to shift to the new valve, but people are reluctant mainly because of the slow release of gas, which makes cooking a longer affair. Housewives are not happy with this, says one hotelier. Shortage  of gas on weekends is a normal occurrence due to increased demand and more so during Ramadan, but it is not an alarming situation. There was shortage of supplies in gas cylinders a month ago when the refueling plant in Kilo 14 in Jeddah had to take care of cylinder requirements for the Jazan region, where the plant was shut down. Disruption in cylinder supplies was again experienced when Jeddah Traffic Police imposed a ban on the movement of heavy trucks. The situation, however, returned to normal after Jeddah Gov. Prince Meshaal bin Majed exempted gas cylinder trucks from the ban.