A lot of domestic gas users in Nigeria and Africa do not know that cylinders or canisters they use to house and transport the gas have expiry dates. Executive Secretary, Nigerian Association of Liquefied Petroleum Gas Marketers (NALPGAM), Mr. Bassey Essien, in this no holds barred interview at the *Platforms Africa Forum 3rd e-Discourse,* opened up on this and the report on the cause(s) of recent gas explosion in Ajuwon, Iju Isaga area of Lagos, Nigeria. Excerpts:
The explosion in Ajuwon, Iju Isaga area of Lagos, Nigeria reported to have been caused by gas, happened less than 24 hours after the fuel tanker fire in Nigeria’s Kogi state in which 30 people were killed. What is your reaction? Are we all safe?
Yes a gas explosion happened at Iju Ishaga two days ago in Lagos and l with some members of my association’s technical committee visited the scene. Had extensive discussion with the owner of the plant and residents around.
Yes l can say authoritatively that we are safe. Accidents only occur when safety precautions are not maintained, even medications we take for our wellbeing have mode of usage and if exceeded can be dangerous.
The explosion at Iju Ishaga was not attributed to the gas plant as the plant was still intact without any damage.
It was actually an accident from a gas truck in transit, coupled with bad road and am sure with the poor maintenance nature of the truck by the owners(which is a logistic company). The owner of the gas plant felt shortchanged in the product quantity he bought and insisted the truck must be reweighed to ascertain the accuracy of the product quantity.
While the truck had left the plant and at an intersection where it’s supposed to enter the major road, the lower part of the truck housing the gas discharge pipes got hooked onto a portion of the road and in the process of the driver trying to get over it, the pipe must have come off at the flanges and the resultant leakage and with combustible materials around (the hot exhaust, gas and air), the explosion ensued and the resultant damage.
*What is your view on development and usage of gas as alternative fuel in Africa.*
Nigeria is endowed with natural gas, more abundant than crude oil and same apply to most African countries blessed with oil and gas deposits.
With a population of over 200 million in Nigeria alone, cooking with firewood have a devastating effect on the forest, conservation of wildlife and vegetation, health implications and attendant Medicare bills and deaths,climate change etc.
Knowing the potential in gas for industrialization, we must harness the advantages in using gas which is not only for cooking and heating but also for industrial development, power generation, transportation, agriculture, chemical derivatives for industries. We can only ignore our abundant endowment at our own detriment.
The use of gas as alternative fuel in Africa must be developed and encouraged. It’s the cleanest energy source and cheapest. Gas flaring which has substantial effect on the climate will be drastically reduced if all are collected and processed into gas.
*There is an advocacy in Nigeria and across the continent for Cooking gas known by professionals as Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) to serve as a better alternative to firewood, is anything wrong with this?*
There is nothing wrong with that, in fact gas is the way to go because of its numerous advantages over other cooking fuels.
Advocacy is catching up very well. For example the consumption of gas was about 50,0000metric tons (50,000MT) in 2007 but today consumption in Nigeria has grown up to about 1,000,000MT per annum.
This has been achieved majorly through advocacy and campaign on usage and encouragement of the populace to switch to gas from other low quality cooking fuels with hazardous health implications.
We are equally advocating for government incentives to ensure the appliances households will need for the conversion to gas will be readily affordable by an average household.
We are also creating awareness on safe usage and handling of gas to encourage usage and remove the fear that gas is evil and dangerous.
*Across the continent, gas related incidents and accidents have been reported. What, in your view, can cause accidents for gas users?*
Causes of accidents are majorly attributed to not doing the right thing, not following standards and procedures, cutting corners to avoid adhering to standards, use of substandard equipments. Poorly trained workforce in gas operations.
Educating people on the proper ways to handle and use has always is being intensified and the workforce should be constantly trained and ensure adherence to standards safety practices.
*Do gas cylinders have expiry dates? How can one know when ones cylinder expires?*
Cylinders have expiry dates. The year of manufacture is always embossed at the neck of the cylinder. In Nigeria, a gas cylinder has a 15 years life span.
You know this by looking at the year of manufacture of the cylinder at the neck of it and add 15 years to that. If a cylinder is produced in 2020, it means the cylinder will expire in 2035.
However before the expiry date, it must be tested every 5 years to ensure the integrity is intact and also indicated that it has passed the integrity test on each of those 5 years.
*The ownership of cylinders has been generating heated debate. Who in your view should lay claim to ownership of cylinders. Government or individual?*
In Nigeria, except the government makes cylinder available to every household, then cylinder should be owned by the individual.
In the cylinder exchanges at the shops, no one will buy a brand new cylinder to go and exchange it for a rickety, old or even expired cylinder at the shop.
*In the developed countries, the supply of gas to homes and offices is done through pipeline and not always through cylinders as we have in Africa. Which mode of supply do you prefer? And why?*
Piping into homes states in the country to adequately map out and enforce building plans to take into consideration p iping of gas into household. The past building plans will make it very difficult to start piping gas into homes but future buildings structures must be adjusted to the modern state of piping gas into homes.
*For a start, let ask this question, if any attempt is made to pipe, is it safe for our environment, given the fact that even water pipes break?*
That is why l say that it can be firstly restricted to structures housing units and estate for starters.
The pipes we are talking about are not just water pipes, they are specialized gas pipes and subjected to heavy production standards and certification.
*In Ghana, there is this attempt to for cylinders to be recycled, it looks like it is not catching on because some people do not keep their cylinders neat, how can education be done on keeping cylinders neat?*
In Nigeria my association and other stakeholders have been embarking on awareness on how to handle and keep gas cylinder safe. Storage is very important. We have been circulating hand bills, have radio shows and jingles on how to maintain gas cylinders. We cannot stop the advocacy. Even the elites also fall short in the areas of cylinder maintenance. Cylinders should not be stored under the sun or under the rain as all these affect the physical appearance of the cylinders. But most importantly ensure the cylinder has not expired.
*I will like to ask our resource person his opinion on these small small gas outlets that have taken over our residential areas. In fact within the small vicinity of my neighbourhood we have more than five of such outlet already! should that be a source of concern to us the residents? And if yes what can we do?*
The proliferation of these gas outlets is equally of great concern to us too.
Sadly most of them do not have the requisite approval and certification to operate and thus do not necessarily meet the standards and requirements for licensing. When we encounter such, they are reported to regulatory authorities for further actions.
However, citing gas outlets in residential areas is not is abnormal because the same gas is for domestic usage.
The devastation a 5kg cylinder can cause can be as fatal as that of a much larger containment vessel especially if there are combustible materials around such vicinity.
The main thing of concern is the observance of safety requirements for such an outlet thus if such outlets wherever located dangerously would never pass any approval test by the regulators. So it is of utmost importance where you suspect should contraption within your vicinity for you to urgently draw the attention of authorities to actually confirm if they have a license.
Another issue again is in most cases, the gas plant would have been located in a remote area but with time development encroaches and takes over the gas plant. It will be wrong to now ask the plant to relocate.
The physical planning authorities also have to be alive to the building approvals they grant. In fact the regulatory body will not give a plant the necessary approvals if there is no report called suitability report that the site is suitable for the plant and also the approval of he state physical planning authority, police report and that of the fire service.