News

Gas ratio to blame for explosions; lab used expired gas sample 

 

  • Presidential Expert Committee issues final report 
  • Committee Chair confirms explosions due to propane increase 
  • Claims private lab testing Litro samples admitted to using expired sample 

 

BY Pamodi Waravita 

The Presidential Expert Committee appointed to investigate the recent liquefied petroleum gas (LPG)-related explosions has blamed the increase in the propane ratio for the explosions, and revealed that Geo Chem Lanka (Pvt.) Ltd., the private lab testing the samples of Litro Gas Lanka Ltd., had admitted to the use of an expired gas sample for Litro’s reports attesting to the maintenance of the proper gas ratio.

Whilst addressing the media yesterday (21), Presidential Expert Committee appointed to investigate the recent LPG-related explosions Chairman University of Moratuwa Prof. Shantha Walpolage said that the main reason for the recent increase in incidents of LPG-related explosions is the increase in propane in the gas composition within an LPG cylinder.

“We have concluded in our final report that the main reason for the increase in LPG-related explosions was the change in the gas composition. There was a huge increase of incidents from November to December 2021. We first did company-level investigations. We also investigated the scenes of the incidents. We questioned Litro Gas Lanka twice and Laugfs Gas PLC as well. The labs involved in the testing of gas samples were questioned, as were all government authorities related to the industry. Even though the composition changes, the probability of a cylinder exploding is very minimal. What happens is an explosion from a gas leak,” Prof. Walpolage told the media yesterday.

Further, speaking to The Morning yesterday, Prof. Walpolage confirmed that the Committee has observed this gas composition change in the samples of related products of both the companies Litro Gas Lanka and Laugfs Gas PLC.

Explaining further, Committee Member Prof. (Retd.) W.D.W. Jayathilake said that when the gas pressure increases due to the change in composition, the pressure outside the regulator also increases, which leads to an increased risk of gas leaks and explosions as certain hoses and cookers cannot handle that pressure.

Prof. Jayathilake added that when they had checked the gas samples with the Sri Lanka Standards Institute (SLSI), the Industrial Technology Institute (ITI), and the Sri Lanka Accreditation Board for Conformity Assessment (SLAB), at the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation (CPC) Sapugaskanda laboratories, they had found that propane was present in the range of 42-46%.

“Thus, it is clear that the percentage of propane was higher than that claimed by the companies,” he added.

Prof. Jayathilake also claimed that Geo Chem Lanka (Pvt.) Ltd., the private lab testing the samples of the State’s Litro Gas Lanka Ltd., had admitted to the use of an expired gas sample for Litro Gas Lanka’s reports attesting to the maintenance of the proper gas ratio.

“We checked the reports of the gas samples of the companies. Geo Chem Lanka has compiled the reports for Litro Gas Lanka and Intertek Lanka (Pvt.) Ltd. has done so for Laugfs Gas PLC. We checked how effective these labs were as well. We observed that neither of these labs was accredited by the SLAB. We were especially able to get Geo Chem Lanka to admit that they had used a gas sample which had expired for their Litro Gas Lanka report. Thus, we did not place a whole lot of trust in the reports presented by the companies,” he further claimed.

Attempts to gain clarity regarding the use of the expired gas sample, and whether Litro Gas Lanka had supplied Geo Chem Lanka with an expired sample or whether the sample had expired while it was with Geo Chem Lanka, proved futile, as Prof. Jayathilake could not be contacted for comment. Moreover, Litro Gas Lanka declined to comment on Geo Chem Lanka except to state that the services of the said lab were part of the tender Litro Gas Lanka had signed with the lab several years ago. All attempts to reach Geo Chem Lanka for comment proved futile.

Responding to media questions on whether the Committee had recommended that legal action be taken against the companies for these actions, Prof. Walpolage said that they are only a technical committee which was tasked with investigating what had happened and making recommendations to prevent recurrence.

Thus, Prof. Walpolage said that the most immediate recommendations made by the Committee were to keep the propane percentage to less than 30% and to increase the level of the odourant ethyl mercaptan in the cylinders so that a gas leak is more easily detectable.

“We also provided over 25 recommendations to the SLSI, the Consumer Affairs Authority (CAA), the Imports and Exports Control Department, and a number of other institutions. The entire system must change and must adhere to proper regulations in order to ensure that these incidents will not recur.”

Allegations levelled against Litro Gas Lanka since earlier this year claim that the company changed the composition of gas to a dangerous 50:50 ratio. On 8 December, speaking in the Parliament, Co-operative Services, Marketing Development, and Consumer Protection State Minister Lasantha Alagiyawanna said that lab tests conducted by the CPC on 12 samples of LPG obtained in November 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.

However, Litro Gas Lanka Chairman Theshara Jayasinghe said on Monday (20) that there was “no problem” in the gas composition in the last four months.

Last Friday (17), the Court of Appeal instructed Litro Gas Lanka and Laugfs Gas PLC to only distribute LPG cylinders which are in compliance with the regulations put forth by the SLSI. The SLSI said on 20 December that the composition must be 30:70 (propane:butane) within a gas cylinder.

Ministry of Technology Secretary and Presidential Committee appointed to investigate LPG-related incidents Co-ordinator Jayantha De Silva said on Monday that from the three ships carrying new stocks of LPG to Litro Gas Lanka, two are completely cleared for distribution as they meet the required standards for the gas composition and ethyl mercaptan. One ship has been banned from distribution due to the stocks not reaching the correct level of ethyl mercaptan.

Gas ratio to blame for explosions; lab used expired gas sample