ECONOYNEXT – A committee appointed by Sri Lanka’s president to investigate a series of cooking gas explosions has found that substandard accessories such as hoses and regulators as well as the absence of odour were largely to blame.

A series of liquid petroleum (LP) gas related fires and explosions reported around the island led to a quiet panic among the populace in recent weeks. A total of 458 incidents were reported all year, according to a report by the committee that probed the matter.

The committee said in a statement on Monday (06) that the absence of a distinct odor was a major problem in the detection of gas leaks. Following discussions with all stakeholders, gas companies have agreed to increase the concentration of Ethyl Mercaptan, a gas that gives out a pungent smell, in new batches of LP gas cylinders going forward.

The statement, signed by committee chairman Prof Shantha Walpola, said there has been a significant reduction in LP gas related incidents in the country.

“It has been observed that 244 out of the total 458 incidents were complaints of leaks (as opposed to damaged cylinders, hoses, regulators, etc). Over the past few days, the public has been keen to check the condition of their gas cylinders and have reported such leaks,” Walpola said.

According to the findings, there has been only one incident where a gas cylinder sustained damages, while 178 cases of gas cookers exploding or the cookers’ glass tops cracking, possibly suggesting an unusually hot flame.

The committee urged the public to refrain from testing for gas leaks using unsafe methods.

The second cause for gas related issues the committee has found is substandard or expired equipment such regulators, gas supply pipes, hose clips and dilapidated furnaces.

“We urge all consumers who have not yet paid attention to this matter to purchase components that comply with the standards issued by the Sri Lanka Standards Institute and to purchase quality and safe gas stoves, especially from reputable and responsible agencies, ” Walpola emphasized.

The committee is also conducting studies to determine whether the issues arose due to a gas composition change as alleged by some quarters.

The committee said it studied data on gas composition and vapor pressure imported into the country during the last two years and evaluated the quality of the new system together with the Consumer Protection Authority, the Sri Lanka Standards Institute, the Industrial Technology Institute and the Sri Lanka Certification Board.

The Consumers Affairs Authority (CAA) announced that gases distributed from Monday (06) will have a new seal cover after new requirements were implemented.

An official of the state owned Litro Gas said the new red and white seal will be used to differentiate newly distributed the gas cylinders as per the CAA request.

The official said previously the color of the polythene seal would change weekly but it is not clear if this new polythene seal would be changed similarly.

On Sunday (05) CAA, allowing Litro to recommence distribution (which had been temporarily suspended) said older imported stocks were not to be released to the market, the level of odorant (ethyl mercaptan) to be increased to identify leaks and one in every 100 cylinders be inspected by the CAA.

On December 03, Sri Lanka halted the distribution of LP cylinders as scats of gas explosions rose steeply in the country.

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa appointed a committee on November 30 to probe the mystery gas blasts across the country. The committee was tasked with finding possible causes in order to provide immediate solutions to the issue, according the president’s media division.

Officials had acknowledged that the explosions are unusual, though there was some denial at first.

Litro Gas supplies to more that 80 percent of the Sri Lankan LP gas market, with the privately owned Laugfs Gas taking up the remainder. (Colombo/Dec06/2021)