• Wednesday, June 12, 2024
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How your cooking gas cylinder can become a ticking time bomb

How your cooking gas cylinder can become a ticking time bomb

There are over 4 million cooking gas cylinders in homes across Nigeria, and the government estimates that 1.8 million of them may have exceeded their lifespan but are still used daily raising the risk of explosions with possible loss of life and property.

Cooking gas cylinders sold in Nigeria often have a lifespan of 10 and 15 years however, many of the cylinders sold in the market have been used in Europe, and thus a clean-looking cylinder may already have been around for years before being shipped to Nigeria.

A huge chunk of the volumes come from China and these are mostly newly manufactured ones but are not as thick as the European cylinders and risk of explosion is higher when improperly handled.

Chinese variants are 3mm because they were designed solely for Butane while the European variants are 5mm cylinders as they were originally designed for propane, which is heavier than butane. Manufacturers like Techno and RunGas produce a paltry quantity.

Sale and delivery of liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) gas in Nigeria is still rudimentary. Users carry their cylinders to retail outlets for refill and store afterwards inside their kitchens. Along busy streets, local retailers set up gas refilling shops and a few take positions at petrol stations. This process is fraught with risk, experts say.

“Monitoring and standardisation has to be improved to reduce the inherent risks,” says Emmanuel Uwandu, founder of Gas360, a local LPG distribution outlet.

Read also: Reps to investigate causes of gas cylinders explosions at LPG Plants

Uwandu says customers are not supposed to be managing cylinders. All over the world, distribution outlets manage the process, they care for the cylinders, replace worn out ones and monitor for safe use.

The domestic consumption of LPG otherwise known as cooking gas topped 1 million metric tons at the end of 2020 from around 250,000MT in 2013.

Higher LPG adoption holds huge promise for Nigeria’s clean energy ambition as LPG has low carbon intensity but poor implementation of government policy has prevented large-scale adoption of cooking gas. The Standards Organisation of Nigeria and the Department of Petroleum Resources are tasked with ensuring that cylinders used in the country are safe. Operators say regulation needs to be strengthened to reduce risk associated with LPG or cooking gas use.

Operators say that low quality cylinders are still being imported into the country and the DPR has been unable to effect a policy introduced two years ago that stops customers from managing their cylinders. Many unlicensed retailers operate in large cities like Lagos, some just a howling distance away from open fires.

In June, a leak from a gas tank was the suspected cause of an explosion on Mobalaji Bank Anthony Way, Ikeja, which claimed nine lives and destroyed 24 vehicles.

The Lagos State Emergency Management Agency (LASEMA) report on the incident said a gas tanker 13.5 Tons LPG truck in motion was leaking its content and as a result of wind action, the whole area of OPIC structure was engulfed with fire.

“Close investigation further revealed that the LPG gas was ignited by the exposed fire from the kitchen of the New Chinese restaurant, which followed the trail of the LPG gas, resulting in the combustion of the gas tanker outside the compound. The inferno of explosion resulted in several damages to the OPIC Plaza building structure,” the LASEMA report stated.

There have also been other examples. In April 2021, a gas explosion occurred at a gas dispensing shop in Agboju area of Oriade Local Council Development Area, and in October 2020, around Baruwa area of Ipaja, there was a gas explosion that claimed eight lives, got many injured and destroyed 89 shops and 44 buildings, among others.

BusinessDay enquiries across over a dozen retail outlets in the Lagos Mainland reveal that many retail shops attendants and customers are unaware that a cylinder has a lifespan and are oblivious to the risk.

Some have a local way of telling if a cylinder is old. Emeka Chukwu, a local retailer in Ikeja, Lagos, says the cylinder is weighted and if it is lower than the volume inscribed on the cylinder, then it has probably gone bad. However, that does not stop them from refilling a cylinder that has exceeded its lifespan.

The National Gas Policy framework created in 2017 tried to mitigate this situation by providing for the creation of Micro Distribution Centres that would ensure stringent monitoring mechanisms to improve safety.

However, monitoring has been lax. In city centres, thousands of retail cooking gas shops have opened across Nigeria some in busy neighbourhoods, with barely any monitoring.

Therefore, some companies are trying to develop solutions. Enyo Retail and Supply recently partnered with Rungas Group, an integrated gas trading and infrastructure company, to establish LPG Micro Distribution Centres (MDCs) in Enyo Retail Outlets across Nigeria.

Gas360 is developing a new technology-backed system that allows customers to pay little, monitor consumption through a mobile app and codify cylinders currently in use in the country.

Uwandu says the company hopes to build a database of cylinder users in the country after codifying all the cylinders currently in use, and this will provide actionable data for the country.