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Gas composition change led to explosions: Lasantha Alagiyawanna

09 Dec 2021

  • Alagiyawanna states, citing CPC lab results showing 47% propane 
  • Says ‘at the moment, cannot give 100% assurance about safety’  
BY Pamodi Waravita Co-operative Services, Marketing Development, and Consumer Protection State Minister Lasantha Alagiyawanna said yesterday (8) that lab tests conducted by the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation (CPC) on 12 samples of liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) obtained over the last month show a propane composition of about 47%, and said that he personally believes that this change in composition led to the LPG cylinder-based explosions which occurred over the past month. “We sent 12 samples to the CPC and all of them show a propane composition of 47% or 48%. There are no final, scientific decisions yet on whether this change in composition led to the explosions. However, my personal reasoning is that it was due to the change in gas composition that this problem arose,” said Alagiyawanna in Parliament yesterday. However, Alagiyawanna said that the technical problem remains in the fact that the Sri Lanka Standards Institute (SLSI) has not put forward a regulation for the composition of gas in a gas cylinder. Allegations levelled against the two LPG companies in the market claim that the companies changed the ratio of propane:butane in a gas cylinder from the usual 70:30 to a dangerous 50:50 composition. “The SLSI only has a standard set for the pressure within a gas cylinder. Due to the current regulations, even if a company uses 100% propane in a cylinder, it will not exceed the pressure set forth by the SLSI. No government institution has properly regulated gas so far,” said Alagiyawanna. He further spoke about the short-term measures that the Consumer Protection State Ministry has taken, alongside the relevant government institutions, in order to ensure that the two companies are meeting the safety recommendations now. “The Consumer Affairs Authority (CAA), the SLSI, and the Industrial Technology Institute (ITI) will check new imports when they arrive at the docks in order to ensure that the 20% to 30% propane range is present. The two companies had not had equipment to measure the pressure of cylinders previously. We introduced those over the weekend, and now they have to check the pressure and release them to the market.”  He assured that the Government will accept responsibility and provide necessary relief for any consumers who were inconvenienced. “We will provide justice. Although at the moment we cannot give 100% assurance to the consumers about the safety aspect, our goal is to reach that 100% level as soon as possible.” In the long term, necessary new laws will be introduced, alongside reforms to the relevant government institutions, he said. Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP)-led National People’s Power (NPP) Leader and Parliamentarian Anura Kumara Dissanayake, speaking in Parliament, requested that details be given about whether the companies had obtained lab reports, including reports about possible dangers, when they had changed the composition and whether the two companies had provided any reasons for removing the ethyl mercaptan odourant from the cylinders.  However, both Laugfs Gas PLC and Litro Gas Lanka Ltd. earlier said that they would not accept the CPC lab reports as the CPC lab facilities are not up to the required standard. Litro Gas Lanka further said that the CPC would be their competitor soon, as it is due to introduce its own product to the market, which would in turn lead to a conflict of interest. Both companies have further stated that their gas composition falls within the 30% (propane) and 70% (butane) range, as per the tests that they have conducted and the results that they have received from them. Presidential Expert Committee Head and University of Moratuwa’s Prof. Shantha Walpolage said this week that they have recommended that the companies ensure that the odourant be present in the cylinders in the correct dosage henceforth. Meanwhile, the CAA ordered both Litro Gas Lanka Ltd. and Laugfs Gas PLC to recall all sealed cylinders in the market that had been distributed before 4 December. Prof. Walpolage noted that 430 LPG cylinder-based incidents had occurred between 29 November 2021 and 5 December 2021.

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