ABU DHABI // People are smuggling gas from Abu Dhabi to Dubai after illegally stocking up on cheap LPG cylinders by using the e-gas cards of the capital’s residents.
An investigation by The National found that residents let friends and relatives use their pre-paid Rahal e-gas cards to exchange empty LPG cylinders for full ones, which they transport in their cars to Dubai.
Rahal cards were introduced by Abu Dhabi National Oil Company to allow Abu Dhabi residents to buy new gas cylinders for their homes at a subsidised price at Adnoc stations or from a delivery service. The cards are issued only to people who can present an Emirates identity card or Tawtheeq contract to prove their residence.
In Abu Dhabi, a 25-pound (11.3 kilogram) cylinder filled with gas costs Dh20 for a Rahal card, or Dh58 without the card. A 50-pound cylinder costs Dh30 with the card and Dh116 without. In Dubai, a 25-pound cylinder at Emirates Gas costs Dh73 and a 50-pound cylinder costs Dh245.
The larger cylinders have enough gas to last a family for six to eight weeks, although expatriates are allowed three new cylinders per month, and five for Emirati families.
An Adnoc station supervisor said his staff could not stop residents of other emirates from buying new cylinders if they were with someone who had a valid Rahal card.
“We get residents who frequent us very often for gas and they get it for others,” he said. “We know that but we can’t do anything about the rules of three refills per person a month, which is more than enough even for a big family.”
Before the introduction of the e-gas cards, Dubai residents would regularly travel to Abu Dhabi to buy cheaper gas cylinders. When the Rahal system was introduced in September 2015, the practice stopped. But people soon figured out ways to circumvent the rules, although the number of people doing so is still lower than previously.
“We can’t get the police, so we give them gas as per the rules – three small refillings a month and two big ones for expat families. But locals get five small refillings and three big ones,” the supervisor said.
Saeed Al Rashdi, acting chief executive of Adnoc Distribution, said the Rahal system was set up to govern the sale of LPG cylinders in Abu Dhabi. “The sale of subsidised cylinders is restricted to Rahal e-gas cardholders only,” he said.
“Due to the significant price differential between the subsidised and the unsubsidised prices, we can expect to see a certain amount of smuggling to take advantage of this price difference.”
To tackle the problem, Mr Al Rashdi suggested standardising LPG sales. “To prevent misuse of this subsidy, the most effective solution would be to standardise the rules for the subsidy and commit all producers of LPG cylinders to abide by these rules,” he said.
Some Abu Dhabi residents said they were unhappy that residents of other emirates were exploiting the system.
“It’s so bad to get gas from Abu Dhabi using other people’s cards. Some families get it using their cards and give to others,” said Indian Saleem Raja.
“The benefit is meant for us, so people should not snatch it, that’s wrong.”