Costa Rica government works to normalize propane distribution after couple’s divorce causes supply lag

May 8, 2015

Following orders from an administrative court, the Costa Rican Oil Refinery (RECOPE) restarted selling cooking gas Thursday to the country’s biggest distributor Gas Zeta, responsible for supplying just over 70 percent of the national market.

The refinery’s facilities will work extended hours, including weekends, to normalize supply throughout the country. Propane distribution across Costa Rica has been affected due to a legal dispute stemming from the divorce of Gas Zeta owners Miguel Zaragoza and Evangelina López.

Earlier this week RECOPE refused to sell propane to Gas Zeta, arguing legal uncertainty over the company’s ownership. Refinery officials even denied entry of Gas Zeta’s tankers into their facilities. The administrative court issued a temporary authorization for the company’s operation, pending a final ruling on the couple’s claims.

RECOPE’s main propane plant is located in the Caribbean province of Limón, “therefore it would take up to two days to normalize distribution throughout the country,” Gas Zeta manager Miguel Monge said Thursday.

The Public Services Regulatory Authority has opened an investigation into the crisis at Gas Zeta that could lead to sanctions against the company for failing to provide service.

Gas Zeta’s employees are caught in the middle of the dispute. On Friday morning the company’s human resources manager, Ana Villalobos, said at a news conference that all of the company’s 426 workers are putting pressure on a San José administrative court to issue a final ruling on “who is their boss.”

As an emergency measure to make up for propane shortages, Costa Rican Environment Ministry (MINAE) officials granted another private company a one-year license to sell cooking gas. The new company began selling propane Wednesday evening.

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