News

LPG supply shortage: Gas cylinder incidents drop as new safety measures kick in

 

  • CAA, ITI, SLSI work together to check compliance and safety measures for LPG imports
  • Litro reported to have reached full refilling capacity last week

 

By Uwin Lugoda

New safety mechanisms imposed on Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) and its suppliers have so far been effective, with the number of reported gas explosions having reduced over the last two weeks while suppliers Litro Gas Lanka Ltd. and LAUGFS Gas Pvt. Ltd. have ramped up output to address the market shortage, The Sunday Morning learns.

According to a Sri Lanka Consumer Affairs Authority (CAA) official, reports of LPG-related explosions have reduced over the last few weeks. However, LPG cylinder-related incidents continued to be reported last week. Speaking to The Sunday Morning on terms of anonymity, the CAA official said that the authority closely monitors the implementation of new mechanisms to ensure consumers have high-quality, safe gas.

He explained that the new quality-assurance mechanism would begin even before the LPG is shipped here. Prior to being shipped, a private lab would have tested the gas and sent it to Sri Lanka in the form of a load port report.

“Once we get the report we go through it, the gas will be shipped to Sri Lanka, and once it arrives we will take our own samples and make sure that it is the same quality and gas composition as stated in the report,” said the CAA official.

They stated that officials from the CAA, together with the Industrial Technology Institute (ITI) and the Sri Lanka Standards Institute (SLSI), would visit the ship bringing the gas to undertake these tests. Here, the new mechanism tasks them to check the composition of propane and butane in the supply via a lab report, along with the the composition of mercaptan, the additive that is added to natural gas to make it easier to detect in case of a leak.

The official stated that a final file carrying both the load port report and the one presented by their own tests would be presented to the committee chaired by the Technology Department Secretary, which has representation from SLSI, ITI, CAA, and the Sri Lanka Accreditation Board. This committee will have the final say in whether or not the LPG being imported is up to the required standard.

“Only after all that do we allow the gas to enter the country and be filled into cylinders by these gas companies. However, our quality check does not stop there, we also have our officers from the CAA when the gas is being filled into these cylinders,” the CAA official noted.

The official explained that they would do random pressure checks on one out of a thousand cylinders to ensure that there were no pressure problems when it came to these cylinders. Finally, they stated that the CAA also observes the filling process from time to time, to ensure that these companies follow the necessary precautions and checks before letting the cylinders enter the market.

They stated that once these explosions began happening, the CAA’s primary goal was to have them recall all the cylinders in the market. Secondly, they enabled people who felt unsafe with their gas cylinders to return the cylinders to the respective companies without a hassle.

The official stated that since the overall explosions had reduced, the CAA could now look at obtaining compensation for those who were impacted by the explosions.

The CAA’s claim of reduced explosions was also supported by LAUGFS Gas PLC Chairman W.K.H. Wegapitiya, who told The Sunday Morning that there had been no such incidents in the last two weeks with regard to their cylinders. He explained that even prior to the mechanism being changed, LAUGFS had no quality issues when it came to LPG and that only a small number of explosions were attributed to their product.

“We never had quality issues, because we always had a team ensuring that we stick to a high quality standard. Since the Court gave a general ruling that needs to be adopted by all the gas companies for when they fill and deliver cylinders, we adopted these new mechanisms,” said Wegapitiya.

He explained that their first priority was to ensure that the LPG composition remained 30% propane and 70% butane, which they had already adhered to. He stated that unlike other companies which import the gases already mixed, theirs were brought down separately and the mixing was done in Sri Lanka.

Moreover, Wegapitiya added that the Court also instructed the gas companies to introduce the marking of cylinders and a new yellow colour seal to seal the valves. He stated that so far, LAUGFS had adhered to these mechanism changes and was working round the clock to ensure that they could be completed in a shorter period of time and to resume previous levels of supply speed.

“The Government-appointed committee has every shipment of LPG tested. Our company shipments have seen no issues and have not been rejected during these inspections. Additionally, in order to ensure zero defects or leaks, we have introduced a strict monitoring system in the filling process,” explained Wegapitiya.

Litro Gas Lanka Ltd. Chairman Theshara Jayasinghe also addressed the new safety guidelines in a recent media briefing, where he stated that as per regulations, their daily changing of cylinder valves has increased from 300 to 3,000. He went on to state that the company plans on further increasing this number to 20,000.

Both Litro and LAUGFS have claimed that these new mechanisms have slowed down the filling of cylinders, thereby contributing to the current LPG shortage in Sri Lanka. Wegapitiya stated that their cylinder deployment into the market had come down from 40,000 a day to around 10,000-15,000 a day.

However, both companies have stated that they are currently working on speeding up the process and bringing the supply speed up to its previous levels.

Last Thursday (6) Litro’s Senior Manager – Channel Development Chamani Herath Pathirage said in a statement that the company had taken measures to increase its manufacturing capacity and to streamline its manufacturing process concerning domestic and commercial LPG cylinders. She added that Litro had released about 220,000 cylinders to the market over the past few days and assured that the LPG shortage would be fulfilled shortly.

When questioned further, Litro officials told us that the company once again reached its full capacity last week, releasing about 90,000 to 100,000 LPG domestic cylinders per day. They also stated that a new shipment of LPG supply had arrived in the country and was reportedly awaiting approval for its quality standards offshore at Kerawalapitiya.