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23 February, 2019 12:40:24 AM / LAST MODIFIED: 23 February, 2019 02:41:24 PM

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Unchecked gas cylinders turn into ticking bombs

CNG-run vehicles
FAISAL MAHMUD, Dhaka
Unchecked gas cylinders 
turn into ticking bombs

Along with the hazards of allowing chemical godowns in residential area, Wednesday’s devastating fire of Chawkbazaar brings forth the issue of unregulated gas cylinders in vehicles again. Initial investigation and statements of eyewitnesses suggest that the fire had originated from a cylinder blast inside a car.

Even though by regulation, gas cylinders of every type of compressed natural gas-run (CNG) vehicles must be checked for defects and replaced at regular intervals, but few owners follow the mandatory safety guidelines.

This blatant disregard for safety regulations has turned many CNG-run vehicles into ticking time bombs, said experts. According to the data of the Department of Explosives and Rupantarita Prakritik Gas Company Limited (RPGCL), about 3,50,000 CNG-run vehicles in the country are run on untested gas cylinders that have passed the deadline for their check-up.

As of last December, there were 503,131 CNG-run vehicles in the country. Among them, 269,506 were converted to use CNG as fuel, while 193,242 autorickshaws and 40,383 other vehicles were imported as CNG-run vehicles.

According to the BRTA and RPGCL, among the CNG-run vehicles in the country, at least 253,479 have not had their cylinders checked, even though the deadlines for testing their cylinders have expired.

The RPGCL has been keeping records about accidents relating to cylinders, including explosions of vehicle cylinders, since 2005. Two cylinders exploded in 2005, seven in 2006, seven in 2007, eight in 2008, five in 2009, five in 2010, six in 2011, five in 2012, ten in 2014, four in 2016 and one in 2017.

The Independent found out that the existing Motor Vehicle Ordinance (MVO) 1983 hasn’t yet recognized Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) as a vehicle power source, even though about 65 per cent of the country’s vehicles have been converted to run on CNG in the last one decade.

Although 34 amendments were made in the MVO during the mentioned period, none of the eleven chapters of the MVO still has any rules and regulation on CNG-driven vehicles, because of which their serviceability and safety do not fall under mandatory fitness inspection.

The Independent found that back in 2007, the Bangladesh Energy Regulatory Commission (BERC) prepared a draft act on “Safety codes and standard for CNG fuel systems for vehicles”. But four years have passed since then, the draft is still stuck in government red tape.

By this time, due to this lack of rules and regulation, no less than 80,000 vehicles are plying on roads across the country with faulty and outdated gas cylinders without hydro-static tests, which is compulsory for each CNG-fuelled vehicle, every five years, to ensure safety.

Also “reduced air pollution” - a major benefit of using CNG in vehicles - is trimming down as in the absence of any regulatory authority, majority of the CNG refueling stations are using substandard machinery, because of which suspended particulate matter (SPM) in air has actually increased.

The Bangladesh Road Transport Authority (BRTA) has long been evading the responsibility of checking the fitness of CNG-driven vehicles by referring to the age-old MVO.

Rupantarita Prakritik Gas Company Limited (RPGCL) does the duty, on the basis of the amended CNG Conversion Safety Act 2005, which exempted the RPGCL from any sort of post CNG-conversion monitoring responsibility.

And the Department of Explosives, under the Energy and Mineral Resources Division of the power, energy and mineral resources ministry, stated that its duty is to ensure safety during the conversion process, and to form a probe committee, and conduct investigation, if any cylinder explosion occurs.

Talking to The Independent, Shamsul Alam, chief inspector of the Department of Explosives, said: “If owners fail to properly maintain gas cylinders installed in vehicles, it becomes very hard for any government entity to keep a check on it,” he said.

Dr Md Ehsan, professor of mechanical engineering of BUET and an expert on CNG conversion, told The Independent that very few people are in the practice of checking the fitness of their vehicle cylinders, though it should be checked every five years.

“When a person spends Tk. 60,000 or more to convert his vehicle to run on CNG, he naturally doesn’t want to go through the fitness checking or the changing of his cylinder in the next five years, as he was told by the manufacturer that the life of a CNG cylinder is normally 15 years”, he said.

“But in truth, a CNG cylinder is like a plastic balloon. First time the balloon has pressurized gas inside it, the outer surface looks smooth. But if the process is repeated many times, the plastic surface will shrink and lastly it would blow up. Same is the situation for a CNG cylinder; after a certain period it would blow up as well, if its fitness is checked”, Dr Ehsan explained.

He said the government should impose a fitness tax inclusive with the CNG price. “The government should keep Tk. 2 per unit and make a separate safety fund, so that after five years, a vehicle owner can get a free cylinder with a the money of that fund”, he said.

“That is how the public actually pays for the price of a new cylinder and doesn’t bother as the money is inclusive in per unit of CNG and it is imposed by the government”, he added.


IK/SI

 

 

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Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman

Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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