Lack of maintenance and re-checks are putting people at serious risk of death or injury
Expired CNG cylinders, installed in vehicles plying across Dhaka, are ticking time bombs.
According to the officials concerned, a staggering 80% of the vehicles throughout Bangladesh are operating without scheduled CNG cylinder integrity checks. This lack of maintenance puts both the owners and the passengers of the vehicle at serious risk of death or injury.
Experts stated that the government must take stricter measures to ensure frequent re-checks of CNG cylinders installed in vehicles.
During the massive Chawkbazar fire on February 20, many witnesses claimed the blaze was triggered by a parked car’s CNG cylinder explosion. The fire spread to nearby vehicles and then to an LP gas cylinder at a nearby hotel.
The flames turned into an inferno as soon as it reached chemicals stored in the buildings. However, details about the incident are still unconfirmed.
Responding to a query, Chief Inspector of Explosives Department Shamsul Alam said: “After investigating the destroyed vehicle at the scene of the fire, we found no evidence of a CNG cylinder explosion.
“We are considering every possible reason behind this disaster. We have jurisdiction over CNG conversion factories, filling stations, and re-testing centres. However, we cannot force vehicle owners to re-test CNG cylinders, this is Bangladesh Road Transport Authority’s (BRTA) job.”
According to witnesses, a total of: 51 vehicles, including private cars, pickup vans, rickshaws, pulling carts, motorcycles, and bicycles, were destroyed by the fire.
Some cylinders installed in vehicles and hotels remained intact after the disaster, and tangible evidence of a cylinder explosion is yet to be found.
80% of vehicles run without checks
CNG Rules, 2005, clearly states that CNG cylinders installed in vehicles must undergo testing every five years. The cylinders must be replaced if their integrity is found to be compromised.
According to many experts affiliated with the re-testing procedure, only 20% of the vehicles running on CNG are regularly tested. That means a staggering 80% vehicles are running for years without undergoing scheduled safety checks.
Navana’s Senior Sales Executive (Marketing) Kamruzzaman said: “There are around 100,000 CNG cylinders in operation at the moment, but re-testing has been done on only around 32,000 of them.
“Not all of them are from our company, only around 20,000 cylinders are from Navana. Which means around 80% of vehicles are using cylinders without scheduled maintenance. These unchecked cylinders are just bombs waiting to explode.”
Kamruzzaman warned that a CNG cylinder explosion will most certainly kill the driver, passengers, and anyone near the vehicle.
“Since the fire disaster in Chawkbazar, around 30 vehicles came to us for retesting. Usually not more than 8-10 vehicles undergo checks here, on average, per day.”
Who is responsible?
Meanwhile, Intraco CNG Conversion Centre Assistant General Manager (AGM) Nasir Uddin said: “It costs around Tk3,500 to re-test a CNG cylinder installed in a vehicle. So, some people avoid scheduled maintenance checks to save money.
“Re-testing takes around 2-3 hours if there is no serial of customers, and if the cylinder is empty. Many car owners think of it as a hassle.”
Sources from the Rupantarita Prakritik Gas Company Limited (RPCL) confirmed that a total of 6,836 CNG cylinders have been retested since June last year. RPCL also trained 1,138 people to re-test vehicles.
Data collected in June last year shows a total of 503,131 vehicles run on CNG across the country, and 269,506 vehicles among those are conversions. A total of 93,242 auto rickshaws and 40,383 vehicles were also imported as CNG-driven automobiles.
General Secretary of Bangladesh CNG Filling Station and Conversion Workers Owners Association, Farhan Noor said: “CNG cylinders used in vehicles have internal pressure of 3,000 PSI (pound-force per square inch), compared to around one 1 PSI in LPG cylinders used in homes.
“Any compromise in cylinder integrity could lead to a huge explosion. Retesting is not optional, it is mandatory.”
Farhan Noor further alleged that the BRTA does not always check for documents verifying a CNG-driven vehicle has undergone re-testing, before issuing certificates.
Chief Inspector of Explosives Department Shamsul Alam pointed out: “To lessen the risk of CNG cylinder explosions, the import of substandard cylinders must be stopped, and illegal conversion centres should be shut down.
“The government must take initiative to ensure safety standards in this regard.”