ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka has no official standard for liquid petroleum gas composition and no single office has responsibility for overseeing the sector, Consumer Affairs Minister Lasantha Alagiyawanna told parliament, amid reports of cooking gas fire incidents.
Sri Lanka’s Colombo Gas Company was set up in 1960 but there is no single regulatory office for the sector, Minister Alagiyawanna said as reports of multiple gas linked fires were reported with some blaming alleged composition changes.
Company officials say usually gas cylinders do not explode and fires are linked to gas leaks in confined spaces.
LPG is usually made with propane and butane with companies saying they use 70 percent propane and 30 percent butane in Sri Lanka.
Sri Lanka Standards Institute has not fixed a Propane to Butane ratio when SLS standards were issued in 1998 Minister Alagiyawanna said.
The standards referred to pressure and some other measures he said.
According to available information countries used a wide variety of mixtures ranging from 100 percent propane to 10 percent.
LPG grades are defined by the temperature at which they reach a minimum pressure. Grade A usually refers to propane content from 100 to 60 percent, Grade B from 60 to 40 percent, Grade C from 40 to 30 percent and Grade E to 10 percent to zero (100 percent butane).
In some countries the composition changes from summer with a lower propane content in the summer like 100 or 60/40 in winter to 80/20 to 40/60 for summer, according to EU based LPG promotional portal MyLPG. Propane has a lower boiling point (-42 degrees C) compared to butane (-4).
Propane can be 5 to 10 percent more expensive than butane based on Saudi Aramco benchmark prices.
When Colombo Gas Company was privatized to Shell Gas, the firm was supposed to contribute some money to set up a gas regulator, and under clause 9.2 of the privatization agreement it was supposed to be subject to a regulation.
However it has did not happen. Shell Gas was then take back by the state and was renamed Litro. Sri Lanka now has two distributors and they can now compete on prices.
Meanwhile Minister Alagiyawanna said there was no regulator for gas directly but SLS set standards and the Consumer Affairs Authority also had take action on gas firms in the past.
There does not appear to be any published safety standards that is readily available to consumers.
He said a two sample were sent to a company called Intertek on Friday and the results of one which came on Saturday was given to Moratuwa University.
However the University has said no decision could be made on one sample, he said.
Saturday evening samples were collected from Ratnapura, Kurunegala, Galle and Kaluthara and sent to the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation for testing.
Results are expected shortly he said.
Gas usually leaks from faulty regulators, hoses or appliances, company officials say. There are no standards for gas regulators which are freely available at hardware shops, some of which may not be the best.
The companies say they provide required quality replacement regulators and hoses for customers to buy.
Customers are advised to change regulators every five years and hoses every two years and check for leaks.
Sri Lanka’s private Sirasa Television showed footage where a gas distributor said a customer had returned a cylinder saying it was leaking from the top. When he had broken the seals of several other cylinders and checked, they appeared to be leaking from the valve as well he said.
Though propane is odorless, a chemical like Ethyl Mercaptan is added to create a smell.
When there is a smell customers are advised to open door and window and not to switch on lights or do anything to create a spark.
Minister Alagiyawanna said in September SLS published a revised set of standards for public comment before the current concerns over fires emerged.
From January 2015 to October 2021, Litro has recorded 233 incidents, he said.
However now there seems to be an increase, he said. Many gas appliances had been unused for weeks or months due to gas shortages caused by the Consumer Affairs Authority which imposed price controls.
Sri Lanka’s Public Utilities Commission, a multi-sector regulator was devised to be able to plug in additional sectors. (Colombo/Nov29/2021)