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As Gasoline Prices Soar, Some Nigerians Turn to Propane-Fueled Generators

A man starts a petrol generator at his shop in Abuja, Nigeria, June 17, 2023.
A man starts a petrol generator at his shop in Abuja, Nigeria, June 17, 2023.

Nigeria's weak electric grid had led many of its citizens to rely on gasoline-fueled generators for power. But the president's controversial removal of a costly fuel subsidy in May saw gasoline prices triple, spurring Nigerians to switch to generators fueled by cheaper and cleaner propane.

Rasheed Ayodeji, a lawyer in Abuja, is one of more than 10,000 Nigerians who have switched to generators powered by liquefied petroleum gas.

The switch to LPG, also known as propane, is in response to the cost of gasoline, which has tripled since authorities ended a fuel subsidy in May.

Ayodeji said that powering his generator with cooking gas is less expensive.

"I was skeptical at first, so I said let me just give it a try because I am someone that, I'm not resistant to change. … With my experience so far with this one week, my fuel expenses have been cut by 50% for now, and with the gas I still have left, I'm very sure it will still cut up to 60%."

In 2013, Philip Obin started importing hybrid carburetors that converted gasoline generators to run on LPG. For years, demand was slow.

A decade later, however, his sales reached a new peak. He said that following the fuel subsidy removal, he sold more than 10,000 units in less than three weeks.

"The product is selling like wildfire, and that's because of the cost of petrol, which has moved from 190 or 180 to 550 or 540 per liter across Nigeria...We call them hybrid in the sense that it allows you to run either on petrol or cooking gas LPG," he said.

Obin said the switch is easy and simple to make.

"Essentially, you have to pull out the existing carburetor from your generator and install the hybrid carburetor, then you plug in the gas cylinder with your regulator, of course, and then you power up your generator, it's as simple as that,” he said.

Some people are concerned about the safety of using cooking gas in generators that were originally designed to work with gasoline.

Obin said there has never been a single incident with the carburetor over the past decade.

"We've not had a single case of explosion arising from someone using our hybrid carburetor to run generators,” he said.

However, Chuks Edison, an Abuja-based electrical expert and generator repairman, recommends that people exercise caution during installation.

"If you must go into it, you must be very careful. Put so much measure in place, and make sure that your generator is in good condition, that it doesn't have some kind of leakage, or the plug head must be there because the plug head is the most important must keep your cylinder very far from the generator,” he said.

Authorities from Lagos State are also assessing the safety of the product.