LegCo Panel on Economic Services
SAFETY OF LPG CYLINDER REGULATORS
This paper informs Members about the safety of liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) cylinder regulators in the light of two recent incidents.
2. The first incident, which involved a fire, occurred in early July. An investigation by the Gas Standards Office (GasSO) of the Electrical and Mechanical Services Department indicated that a LPG cylinder might have been involved in the incident and that failure of a metal component within the cylinder regulator (the device that regulates the flow of gas) might have occurred. Investigations into the cause of the incident are continuing.
3. The second incident, which involved a minor gas leakage, occurred on 9 August. The Fire Services Department (FSD) attended the incident and removed a LPG cylinder, with its regulator and rubber tube, and a hotplate. The GasSO picked up the equipment from FSD on 10 August and tested it on 12 August. It was found that gas leaked from the regulator vent hole when the valve on the cylinder was turned on. This indicated a fault. The regulator was dismantled by GasSO on 13 August and a component failure was observed. The regulator was from the same manufacturer as the one suspected to have been involved in the first incident and had a similar batch marking, i.e. 9-95.
4. In both cases. the supplier of the LPG cylinder in question was Shell, which is a registered gas supply company.
5. Following the first incident, GasSO convened a meeting with Shell and the Japanese manufacturer of the regulator concerned. It was concluded that there were technical aspects which required further research to be undertaken in the manufacturers factory.
6. On 12 August, Shell visited GasSO to advise that the Japanese manufacturer had sent to them a report of tests completed on the components of the regulator and that the report concluded that there was a possibility of a defect in a very limited quantity of regulators manufactured in two specific batches (i.e. September 1995 and March 1996). In view of this, a recall of regulators with batch markings of 9-95 and 3-96, some 15,000 in all, was decided upon by Shell as a safety measure to avoid any possible further incidents.
7. On 13 August, Shell publicised the recall arrangements and established a hotline with 15 telephone lines and 10 operators and asked each of their distributors to contact their customers to arrange for the exchange. Good progress was made and they were able to replace the regulators in a short period of time. Subsequently, arrangements were made for the hotline staff to contact the remaining customers based upon information provided by the distributors. As at 9 September, of the 15,000 regulators recalled, 10,875 (72%) have been found and replaced. Intensive efforts are continuing to trace the remaining customers affected. GasSO is closely monitoring progress of the exercise.
8. There is no evidence to suggest that the problem identified with regulator batches 9-95 and 3-96 extends to regulators in other batches from the manufacturer concerned or to regulators supplied by other manufacturers.
Arrangements for ensuring the safety of LPG cylinder regulators
9. It was recognized when the Gas Safety Ordinance (Cap.51) was drawn up that it was neither practical nor desirable for the Gas Authority to attempt to control all aspects of the daily operations of gas supply companies. Accordingly, the Ordinance provides that companies engaged in gas supply must be registered by the Gas Authority and imposes upon registered gas supply companies a duty to conduct their operations safely. Registration is awarded only if a company demonstrates to the Gas Authority that it has sufficient resources to undertake the declared scope of business and has the necessary organizational structure and arrangements to ensure safety, including suitably qualified employees to ensure the safe running of day-to-day operations and respond to gas emergencies reported by the public.
10. When the Ordinance was drawn up, there was no evidence of any safety problems associated with the supply and use of LPG cylinder regulators. It was decided therefore that the acquisition and supply of regulators should fall within the scope of self-regulation. In this context, LPG supply companies are expected by the Gas Authority to ensure that the cylinders they supply are fitted with regulators designed and manufactured to international standards by reputable companies who themselves are accredited to international standards.
Consultation with the Gas Safety Advisory Committee
11. The Gas Authority is considering the need to introduce new measures to minimize the chance of similar incidents in future. The Gas Authority will seek the advice of the Gas Safety Advisory Committee on 17 September on whether the existing arrangements can be improved, whether through legislative or other means. Improvements to the existing self-regulatory framework may include the introduction of a code of practice regarding the procurement and supply of LPG cylinder regulators. Such a code would be drawn up by the Gas Authority in consultation with the gas industry and in light of the experience gained.
Economic Services Branch &
Electrical and Mechanical Services Department
Last Updated on 14 Aug, 1998