- How ambiquity in gas cylinders’ expiry date put lives of millions in danger
The integrity of more cylinders and bottles of Liquefied Petroluem Gas (LPG) also known as cooking gas in circulation is doubtful. Adeola Yusuf reports
“Friends, the cooking gas bottle has no place indoors and when its integrity is doubtful, it shouldn’t be used at all,” Joseph Obari, a Port Harcourt-based lawyer declared in a tone laced with anguish.
Obari had just lost a close ally, Ijeoma Queen, to a gas cylinder explosion in Lagos and he appeared unable to hold back tears, as he relayed the bitter experience.
“I received the rudest shock tonight of the passing of a friend and my foremost communications mentor, Ijeoma Queen, from injuries sustained in a cooking gas explosion in Lagos. I never met anyone so eager to learn and determined to improve herself,” he said.
“Ijeoma, the pain, what crushing sorrow, dreams so abruptly ended. Oh! The pains; the struggle to hang on to life!” Obari wrote.
To him, the cooking gas bottle has no place indoors and when it’s integrity is doubtful, it shouldn’t be used at all.
Like Ijeoma, hundreds of Nigerians have met their untimely death due to lack of integrity of gas cylinders in their kitchen. Those who abstained from the use of cooking gas due to corresponding risks are, however, not also spared from gruesome death and poor health.
Deaths from all ends
While the use of gas cylinders portends danger to users, the use of fossil fuel is also of greater risk.
Seventy-nine thousand deaths were, as at the last count, recorded yearly due to the adoption of firewood and other unsafe fuels for household cooking.
Even with these health risks and harvest of deaths, the best option remains the use of cooking gas. What government needs to work harder on is the integrity of the cylinders.
If your cylinder is expired, this is how to know
Do you know that there is an expiry date (physical life) for LPG cylinders? Expired cylinders are not safe for use and can cause lethal accidents and deaths.
This according to a report by Indian science journal, is how you can check the expiry date of LPG cylinders:
On one of three side stems of the cylinder, the expiry date is coded alpha numerically, which starts with A, B, C or D followed by a two digit number. e.g. D06.
“The alphabets stand for quarters -A for March (First Qtr),B for June (Second Qtr),C for September (Third Qtr),D for December (Fourth Qtr).
“The digits stand for the year till it is valid. Hence D-06 would mean December quarter of 2006,” the report stated.
“So next time your delivery boy comes with a re-fill cylinder, make sure you check the expiry date.”
Many local LPG re-fillers, the report stated, even conceal the date, usually by pasting some sticker over it.
“So please be extra careful while checking if you get a cylinder post expiry date, please return it immediately, they are highly prone to leaking or bursting causing serious injuries and can even take life,” the study added.
Although finding the expiry date is not hard at all if you know the trick, an average common man would almost never be able to decipher it.
The question begging for answer is, is it difficult for the LPG companies to write something like “exp: Dec-2006” instead of such an alien code. Or may be they too want to conceal it?”
Government is aware of danger
Government is aware of the huge number of substandard and expired cooking fast in circulation. And, it has come up with a policy to help stop this including the waste on importation of gas cylinders into the country.
The policy announced by former Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu, would particularly strip individuals of ownership of gas cylinders. It is intended to reduce number of sub-standard and/or expired gas cylinders in circulation across the country.
Speaking at a stakeholders’ forum on LPG penetration in Abuja, the former Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu, said the new policy would require that the ownership of the cylinders rests strictly with the dealers and distributors. He added that this was part of the strategy to deepen the penetration of LPG, also known as cooking gas, and address issues of safety.
Kachikwu said that the Federal Government had reached an agreement with two original cylinder manufacturers to deliver 600,000 cylinders to LPG distributors on credit, with a repayment period of 18 months.
He maintained that the Federal Government would in the next couple of days commence the clampdown on illegal roadside LPG dealers, while he directed all skid operators of LPG to immediately convert their outlets to micro distribution centres before the enforcement begins.
Represented by his Senior Technical Assistant, Brenda Ataga, Kachikwu said: “The MDCs will essentially create and introduce into the market what we call the cylinder exchange programme, whereby the cylinders are owned by the distributors.
“There is no need for you to decant for anybody that comes in, and that eliminates illegal risks as well,” he said.
“You would fill them at the refill plants that would be tied to you and exchange it with your customers because you know your customers already.
“Your customers pay for only the content, while you own the cylinders and control the management of those cylinders.
“It is for us to be able to, at any point in time, discern and discover cylinders that are bad, cylinders that need recertification and cylinders that need to be removed from circulation.
“We put that onus on distributors going forward, to support the safe and standard method of selling LPG.
“I tell you today that Nigeria is the only country in West Africa that does not practice the re-circulation model.
“Everyone has moved away from this because, again, most of the population cannot afford cylinders. So, you have to remove that cost from them.”
Private sector’s intervention
Downstream indigenous firm, Techno Oil Limited has perked up plots by the Federal Government to end $15 million annual waste on gas cylinders’ imports into the country.
The company has invested multi-million dollars in the construction of the only functioning gas cylinders plant in Nigeria. Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo, commissioned the five million per annum capacity cylinder plant in Lagos last weekend.
The Executive Vice-Chairman of the company, Mrs Nkechi Obi, said in a statement that Techno embarked on this huge investment to address 79,000 deaths recorded yearly due to the adoption of firewood and other unsafe fuels for household cooking.
“It is a mission to save women from preventable deaths and diseases,” she declared.
“Techno Oil limited is a major player in the downstream sector of the Petroleum industry. The company is making huge investments in the Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) sub-sector to safe lives of thousands of women and to save the country a foreign exchange of over $15 million annual spend on importation of gas cylinders.”
The first task, according to Obi, was to establish the Techno Oil Cooksafe Initiative, an Advocacy program geared towards educating women on the dangers of cooking with fossils fuels; over a five years period, Techno Oil has distributed more than 8,000 LPG cylinders to indigent families across the country
“Further studies showed that there are more issues that needs to be addressed-affordability, accessibility and Availability,” she explained.
“Therefore necessitating huge investment in the LPG value chain, through the establishment of the only functional LPG cylinder manufacturing plant in Nigeria with annual capacity of 5 million units of cylinders.
“And investments in LPG storage Terminal in Lagos and digital gas bottling plants across Techno Oil filling stations and partnership with DPR licensed Gas Plants.”
Speaking on the benefits of the Techno Oil Cylinder Manufacturing Plant, Obi said: “The plant will deepen LPG penetration/consumption in Nigeria as well as create employment opportunities.
“It is estimated that more than 5,000 direct and indirect jobs would be created,” she said, adding that the investment would “save Government forex; more than 15 million dollars is spent yearly on cylinder importation.”
The most imminent danger is to your mother, wife, sister, daughters and female acquaintances. While the government and private sectors are doing what they could do to guarantee integrity of cooking gas, you should not wait to follow these few steps to check how safe you and your relatives are from this avoidable tragedy by checking the integrity of your cylinders.
The best time to do this is now. According to Chinese axiom, the best time to plant a tree was 10 years ago; the second best time is now!
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