LPG cylinders pose risk

Govt amending law to prevent accidents

LPG cylinder explosions, often happening in the country, have prompted the government to take an initiative to amend the existing law in an effort to prevent such fatal accidents.

According to official count, 38 people have been killed and 72 others injured in explosions of LPG (liquefied petroleum gas) cylinders in the country since the introduction of marketing of the cylindered gas.

Sources said the ‘Bangladesh Gas Act 2010’ would be amended to restrict the use of substandard LPG cylinders and to allow mobile courts to prevent accidents. 

They said the Energy Division has started issuing letters to the divisional commissioners and deputy commissioners through the cabinet division for conducting regular mobile courts. 

It has also urged the Department of Explosives to intensify vigilance to check unauthorised dealing of cylindered gas.

The decision to conduct mobile courts was taken recently in the monthly coordination meeting of Energy Division with Senior Secretary Md Anisur Rahman presiding over it.

LPG is becoming the main fuel of the country for household use as the government is discouraging use of pipeline gas due to looming crisis of the natural resource. 

However, the law passed 10 years ago, that regulates the sector, did not include a provision to conduct mobile court.

Sources said the Energy Division decided to conduct mobile courts to stop the sale of LPG cylinders everywhere. For this, permission of the Ministry of Public Administration was also sought last September. 

According to sources, a joint secretary said at the monthly coordination meeting on September 27 that there was no provision in the gas law to conduct a mobile court, making it difficult to start the process. 

Later, the energy secretary directed the officials concerned to examine the amendment to the law.

 Explosion of LPG cylinders is happening often in the country, including the capital. It is killing people of different ages as well as children. Many people lost properties in gas explosion fire incidents resulting from such explosions.

However, no one is taking responsibility for the tragic accidents. According to experts, such accidents are occurring due to use of date expired gas cylinders and substandard quality cylinders.

Fingers are being pointed at the lack of proper monitoring by the government departments concerned. There is no practice of periodically replacing expired cylinders in Bangladesh, experts said.

Moreover, the cylinders that enter Bangladesh are not properly checked for safety by the authorities concerned, which makes it easier for suppliers to flood the market with substandard cylinders. Lack of awareness among the consumers also makes the matter worse, they added.

Experts also suggested the authorities concerned to strictly monitor the consignments before shipment of cylinders, mostly used for cooking in household and restaurants, to ensure safe and sound delivery.

They also called for strengthening the monitoring activities at local markets to prevent sale of substandard cylinders and illegal refilling of gas in branded LPG cylinders to protect the consumers’ rights as well as prevent any untoward incident in future.

State Minister for Power, Energy and Mineral Resources Nasrul Hamid told Parliament on February 05 that 38 people were killed and 72 others injured in LPG gas cylinder explosions in the country.

In 2017, the Bangladesh Fire Service and Civil Defense responded to 872 gas cylinder-related fire and explosion accidents that killed 82 people and injured 1,309 others. The following year, there were 953 fire incidents caused by gas cylinders killing 20 people and leaving 321 others injured, according to the fire service. 

Professor of Dhaka University of Engineering and Technology (DUET), Hasan Mohammad Mustafa Afroz told Bangladesh Post, “The cylinders should be tested every five years and the testing date should be engraved on them. But no such date is found on the cylinders. If the cylinder is not tested in a specific time, then the risk remains.”

Dr Ijaj Hossain, of Bangladesh University of University and Technology (BUET), said every LPG cylinder has a due date for statutory testing for defects. This date is inscribed on one of the three iron plates supporting the cylinder from above. Since many people are unaware of this, cylinders with expired dates go unnoticed,” he said.

Dr Ijaj also explained, “Cylinders with expired dates are prone to valve leakages that can cause an explosion. Such cylinders can also explode while being transported on delivery vehicles,” he warned. “Think of it like a balloon. If you insert air inside for a number of times, the balloon’s surface begins to wrinkle and thin out, and, eventually, at one stage, it will blow up. The case with cylinders is no different. At one stage after a certain number of pressurized gas insertions, it will blow up if the insertion is not stopped.”

LPG is a mixture of propane and butane that becomes liquid under pressure, which can then be stored in pressurized containers for use. It is used for heating, cooking and auto fuel. LPG is relatively new in Bangladesh, but the demand is increasing day by day.

According to the Energy Division, the total supply of LPG in January 2009 was 45,000 tonnes. At present this quantity has increased to 9 lakh tonnes. Of this, only 16,000 tonnes is being supplied by state-owned BPC. Private companies are supplying the rest. However, currently the yearly demand is around 15 lakh tonnes. 

Meanwhile, World LPG Association (WLPGA) sees Bangladesh as one of the fastest-growing LPG markets in the world, and predicts that demand for the fuel might reach up to 30 lakh tonnes by 2025.