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How difficult is it to prevent “domestic gas” explosions in Nigeria? | My Metro

My Metro


How difficult is it to prevent “domestic gas” explosions in Nigeria?

It’s 9.45pm and I’m not doing much. In fact, I’m almost ready to go to bed. The generator has been turned off to conserve whatever precious petrol is left, as it wasn’t easy to come by this time. Somehow, the shaky voice of David over the phone manages to annihilate whatever plans I have for an early night. I know something terrible has happened.

“Why?”  I manage to ask, doing a quick survey of all my friends and family, and who I haven’t spoken to recently.

“It’s Bode. Gas explosion. He’s at LUTH. See you soon bro” Me, Bro? I know this must be serious but I’m relieved, because I also know he’s alive.

It turns out Bode has been admitted with second degree burns from a domestic gas explosion

Cooking gas cylinders are a great relief from kerosene stoves and electric cookers in environments with limited or unpredictable power supply. Some say you haven’t lived if you haven’t blown into the dark rings  of a smoking kerosene stove. These cylinders are one of the most common alternative fuel sources in the world, with 33.5million Indian households relying on this cooking appliance in 2011. In modern town planning, the use of these gas cylinders is only replaced by the expansion of town gas into buildings, as seen in Hong Kong and Brazil. When handled correctly, gas cylinders are portable, in abundant supply, convenient and affordable. When not handled correctly, they can cost your life.

Street merchant

What is in ‘cooking gas’?

Cooking gas sold in Nigeria is otherwise known as Liquefied Petroleum Gas, or LPG. Liquified because because the gases can be stored in liquid form with moderate pressure, Petroleum because the composite gases are light hydrocarbons (composed of carbon and hydrogen if we are to revisit organic chemistry notes of years gone by) – butane and propane in varying compositions, Gas because, well…Gas.

Where does LPG come from?

In 1910, Dr Water Snelling, an American chemist working for the US bureau of Mines launched an investigation into  a customer complaint regarding his petrol evaporating too quickly.

LPG is made up of a flammable mixture of propane and butane gases in varying quantities. When sold separately in Nigeria, Butane comes in a blue cylinder, and propane comes in a red cylinder. The nature of this composition means that it has to be stored, transported and used via pressurised cylinders. LPG is ideal for cooking because it burns cleanly (this means that it burns without any soot or smoke given off), and exposure to this in small amounts is not toxic to humans. It is relatively odourless, however an odourant is added to enable detection in the event of leakage.

Just like in Nigeria, it is used for cooking in countries which don’t have gas piped to homes for domestic purposes.


Back to Bode. After several rounds of questioning and introspection, it was clear that his misfortune had come as a result of some faulty tubing connecting the cylinder to the cooker. If as little as 2% of LPG leaks out, it will form a flammable mixture with air. Within a confined space with no adequate ventilation, this can very easily cause an explosion.

Hoses and tubing on gas cylinders are one of the weakest points in the system, and it is important to pay attention to keeping these as safe for use as possible. One would be surprised at how easy it is to ensure safety, and how simplistic the safety instructions are, compared to the damage caused annually. The experts at Calor suggest:

  • Keeping the tubing away from bright sunlight, dampness, abrasion and heavy weights.
  • Replaces hoses every 5 years, as they are manufactured with a lifespan of 5 years
  • Store the cylinders in a place where you have good ventilation. This is because LPG is heavier than air, and gravity ensures that it will flow along floors and and settle in pockets in the ground (if any).  As a result, a leak and an ignition source are the only requirements for an explosion to occur. In addition to this, an unchecked leak will cause air to be displaced, increasing the chances of suffocation.

How to check for leaks

It is important to do the following every gas cylinder change without fail.

All you need to detect a leak is soapy water, a sponge or spray bottle and good lighting.

Turn on the valve and either soap the valve and hose down or spray with a spray bottle. If you see bubbles appear, you have found your leak.

Here’s a video demonstration:

It is important that you check at home, as well as at the depot, as the connections between your cooker and the gas cylinder also need to be checked.

As you can see, safety is only a sponge, soap and know-how away. The more people aware of how to keep these units safe for use, the more potential lives saved. Therefore, please share this post with those you know who use domestic gas for cooking.

Follow Metro.ng on twitter @metrodotng to keep up follow these and other stories in development. Please leave your comments below.



About Zima Meli

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