Consumers of liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) are facing some problem, following the trade department’s letter to the Indian Oil corporation ltd. to not refill expired LPG cylinders.

Hopefully this is a small hiccup, owing to the sudden notice and the number of cylinder that has to be re-qualified before refilling.  Concerns are being expressed in some corners that suppliers of LPG in India could hold our distributors to ransom, as we have to depend on them for the crucial cooking fuel.  We hope the issues will be sorted out quickly and supply ensured before creating panic among the consumers.

The cylinders have to be re-qualified and, if found not fit for refilling, should be replaced with new ones.  Auditors have found that a large number of cylinders, well beyond their lifespan, have been in circulation.  This is risky.  Even in India, from where our LPG comes, supplying of expired LPG cylinders is an issue.

While many feel that bursting cylinders are inflaming fire during house fires, it could actually be the cause of the fire.  Out of dates cylinders are more prone to leakages and could actually start fires or blasts, causing harm to people and damaging property.  Explosions could happen when the cylinders are being transported, causing loss to the distributors.

The biggest concern is that not many know that the solid cylinder, present in almost all homes, comes with an expiry date.  This increases the risk.  We have incidents where people were killed when lighting stoves fed by LPG.  LPG is widely used in the country because of its convenience.  Users include villagers, who carry cylinders on horses or on their back for hours.

Needing to re-qualify expired cylinders is not a new rule.  It has been there.  In fact, the IOCL insists on it, and old cylinders are put back into circulation after statutory testing.  In our case, the risk is doubled, as they have to be loaded and unloaded several times, and transported through rough roads for distances.  Unloading mostly means throwing the heavy cylinders from the truck.  An average client, and even the so-called educated ones, hardly checks the expiry date, forget weighing it.

The Royal Audit Authority, on the recommendation of the National Council, has pointed out the flaw.  Hopefully it has created some awareness among the users.  In rush for profits, sometimes businesses could not care so much about safety.  This could jeopardise lives.  Therefore, there should be commitment from all agencies to ensure that the cylinders we use are safe.

The trade department has initiated by writing to IOCL.  Another way to do is by creating awareness.  If consumers insist on not expired cylinders, it could force retailers to ensure that the cylinders are safe.

Many could have been under the impression that LPG, a crucial fuel that is imported on subsidy, was under close scrutiny.