The catastrophic explosions at Nyaniba Health Assistants Training School in Tema, Valco Estate, the University for Development Studies in Wa, Ashaiman, Axim and Kwahu-Foda in the Eastern Region are still fresh on our minds.
This is a timely discretion of the National Petroleum Authority’s mandate as a regulator of the petroleum downstream industry in ensuring that the public understands the risks and dangers of not using LP Gas safely and discouraging any unconventional use without seeking expert advice to ensure safety.
LPG belongs to a family of chemical compounds called hydrocarbons. As the name implies, it only consists of hydrogen and carbon atoms.
It is produced as a result of the refinery of crude oil into its various petroleum product components such as LPG, petrol, kerosene, diesel and residual fuel oil.
Properties of LPG
LPG is as safe as any other fuel to use. However, as we all know, anything that generates heat and energy, if not handled with care, can create difficulties. There are five main properties of LP Gas which are explained below;
LPG is a Gas
Firstly, LPG in its normal condition is a gas but it can be pressurised at low temperature into liquid so that it is stored in cylinders and storage vessels.
LPG is lighter than water
The weight of LPG is about half the equivalent of water. It can be recalled that some years ago, it was reported that two people went into an LPG vessel apparently to carry out maintenance works and they died.
There are laid down rules and procedures that have to be followed before one can go into an LPG vessel such as wearing of protective clothing, safety reinforced boot and most importantly, nose mask or breathing filters.
Before you go into an LPG vessel, you can pour water into the vessel from the top to the bottom gradually until the water fills the LPG vessel. LPG being lighter than water will gradually come to the surface and subsequently escape from the vessel. You leave the vessel for about 24 hours.
Every LPG vessel has what we call bottom drain valves , you can drain the valves to allow the water to escape and close the valve. After that, you can go inside and work. In that case, all the LPG might have been expelled.
It’s heavier than air
LPG roughly weighs twice as much as air. So in our kitchens, if there is a leakage of LP gas, it can flow on the ground in gutters, depressions, and basements and can travel at a considerable distance from the point of leakage. Therefore when there is an explosion, it can travel far away from the point of leakage.
It’s highly flammable
When mixed in the right proportion with air and a source of ignition can cause an explosion.
It’s odourless and colourless
LPG has no scent. However, an odourant is added to LPG so that in the event of a leakage you can smell it.
LPG offers a myriad of advantages for both end-users and the community as a whole. Simplicity of transport, storage and use are combined with its immediate availability and negligible impact on the environment. Other benefits include cost;
It’s cheaper than charcoal
Let’s take a typical 14.5kg LPG cylinder which cost about GH¢48 and a bag of charcoal which cost GH¢35 to GH¢40 which is being used by a household of about five people.
The 14.5kg LPG can be used between eight to 10 weeks while the charcoal will not last for more than four weeks. Comparatively, LPG is cheaper to use than charcoal.
It’s environmentally friendly
It is environmentally safe and friendly, particularly in urban areas, thanks to low particle emissions, low nitrogen oxide emissions, and low sulphur content.
What to do when you smell Gas
If you smell gas at home, the first thing to do is to open the windows to get rid of the gas. Make sure the nob to the gas cooker and the regulator is turned off.
If these two things are turned off and you can still smell the gas, then there are two possible sources of the leakage. The valve is damaged or the rubber hose is loose.
If it is safe to do so, try to locate the source of the leakage by applying a solution of soapy water to the base of your cylinder valve or along the flexible hose.
If bubbles appear and become bigger or increase in number then you have a leakage. Knowing where the leakage is helps prevent accidents.
Take it to an LPG plant for replacement.
To conclude therefore, LP Gas is very useful and almost indispensable, that is why we must always strive to abide by its rules of use to forestall unpleasant consequences.
The Writer is with the Public Relations and Consumer Service Department of the National Petroleum Authority.
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. The information can also be obtained from the National Petroleum Authority's website (www.npa.gov.gh)