Friday, December 05, 2003

Safety standards for CNG stations yet to be prescribed

Safety standards for CNG stations yet to be prescribed

By Intikhab Ali

KARACHI: Though no exact figures are available, there are nearly 200 compressed natural gas (CNG) stations in the city. There is, however, no government agency to prescribe and ensure safety measures at these stations.

The explosion that took place at a CNG-filling station here in Phase V of Defence Housing Authority (DHA) on Wednesday has underscored the need for an agency to prescribe precautionary measures to save human lives. Seventeen persons were injured in Wednesday’s explosion.

The city government’s master plan is to group offices to issue no-objection certificates (NCO) for the installation of CNG-filling stations, after the requirements of the building bylaws of the Karachi Building Control Authority are fulfilled. The DHA is not under the jurisdiction of the City District Government Karachi, so it did not issue the NOC for it.

Sources in the city government, however, said safety measures were a technical issue and there was no one capable of doing the job in the entire city.

The explosion in the DHA should be an eye-opener for the federal, provincial and city governments, so they should prescribe safety measures at CNG stations.

Sources in the master plan group of offices pointed out that the responsibility to check technicalities of CNG stations was of the ministry of petroleum and they had trained personnel, equipment and know-how.

“It is a tradition in our society that a matter is given attention only after a disaster strikes,” they said.

The sources said they had received reports from various parts of the city that unauthorized CNG stations were being established and nobody knew whether they had taken safety measures or not.

Compressed natural gas is highly inflammable, so special precautionary measures are needed to handle it.

According to experts, CNG stations/plants should be set up at a safe distance from residential areas. CNG stations should be built according to the specifications laid down in the building bylaws at petrol-filing stations. In Karachi, many CNG plants have been set up at petrol stations and the number is increasing rapidly. Experts also recommend safety measures in the electric room, which develops pressure for CNG filling.

There are complaints in Karachi that workshops that are fitting CNG kits to vehicles are using substandard cylinders and kits. This is high time to prescribe safety measures at CNG stations and also for those engaged in conversion of vehicles into CNG. NOCs of those failing to follow the safety rules should be cancelled.

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