New composite flask
A purchase agreement covering 10-kilogram propane flasks in a plastic composite material has been concluded by Statoil and Raufoss Composite.
The new containers will be produced by a company called Ragasco, which is owned 66 per cent by Raufoss Composite and 34 per cent by Statoil's Industrial Development business area.
According to Jens Økland in Marketing's liquefied petroleum gas department, the 10-kilogram flask represents an improvement on the six-kilogram composite container introduced by Statoil in 1996.
He adds that the larger size also covers a considerably wider market than the earlier version, which is aimed at special leisure sectors. It is due to be ready for sale in late 1999.
Composite propane flasks offer important benefits for consumers, in part because they are transparent and thereby allow users to see how much gas remains.
They are also only about half the weight of a steel flask, and incorporate major design improvements from the latter.
Their drawback at present is that production costs are higher than the steel variant.
"In an early phase, with small volumes, the composite type will naturally be rather more expensive to produce," Mr Økland observes. "As we succeed in expanding volumes and gaining access to larger international markets, we hope to get closer to the price of steel flasks."
Statoil has exclusive rights to sell composite propane flasks in Scandinavia and selected markets elsewhere.
Mr Økland says that the long-term plan is to achieve a breakthrough abroad, but Scandinavia will be the focus for Statoil's initial commitment.
The group currently sells just under 3,000 tonnes of bottled propane annually in Norway. Derived from oil refining and natural gas processing, this gas is liquefied to reduce its volume en route to customers.