A compressed gas cylinder stores cooking gas at very high pressure. This makes them a bit hazardous, and the resulting accidental damage can be severe. The technical term is liquefied petroleum gas. LPGs are used for cooking, lighting, and heating. Ordinarily, LPGs are odourless. However, manufacturers add a unique scent to make it easier to identify leaks.
How do gas cylinders work?
They are filled with both liquid and gas. When under pressure, it’s a liquid, but when the pressure valve is released, it turns into gas. The liquid LPG at the bottom evaporates into a gas, constantly refilling the cooking gas. The LPG remains gaseous at room temperature. It’s perfect for cooking because it can be easily compressed into metal cylinders for transport.
Is LPG toxic?
The gases in the cylinder aren’t toxic to inhale. But in the event of leaking, it’s dangerous because it displaces the oxygen in the air. The gases are heavier, and you end up with oxygen depletion.
It’s also highly flammable. When you light up the burner, it can cause an explosion. The resulting fire can cause great damage to your home and the surrounding areas.
How to handle gas cylinders safely
1. Position it upright
When transporting the cylinder, ensure it remains upright. Don’t roll it on the ground; ensure it doesn’t hit other objects. Ensure they are at a safe distance from the gas burners. If they’re too close, buy a longer pipe so you can store it further away. Avoid hitting it with objects. The structure of the cylinder needs to be maintained. A dent can cause a pressure difference within the cylinder, leading to leaks.
2. Inspect the cylinder
Most people get cylinders delivered straight to their homes. The only check they do is confirm that the gas burns properly. However, you should also inspect the integrity of the cylinder. If it’s dented or showing signs of rust, notify your supplier and get a new cylinder that looks solid. Never use an open flame to check for leaks.
3. Shut empty cylinders
Ensure all your burners are shut off when the gas eventually runs out. Also, shut the valve on the cylinder until you get a new one. If it has been dented or damaged, be sure to notify your supplier.
4. Store it where there is free-flowing air
The gas cylinder should be placed where there is enough air circulation. This reduces any risks resulting from leaking. Keep it away from the reach of children and also store it away from fire hazards such as sockets, direct sunlight, or sources of heat. Additionally, if it remains unused for five months and over, return it to your supplier for a new one.
5. Keep windows open when cooking
This keeps the risk of leaks low. In addition, don’t leave the burners unattended when cooking. If you also need to leave the house, switch off the cooker, then resume cooking when you return.
What to do in the event of a gas cylinder fire
When a gas cylinder is weak, it can rupture because of a weak structure or get dented. The increasing pressure and compromised cylinder wall can lead to an explosion if there is an open flame or a heat source.
If the fire started because of the cylinder valve being left open, someone lit a fire; control the fire by shutting off the valve—if it is safe. Try to put out the fire using a powder-based extinguisher.
The flames can grow faster. If they’re too high and hot, stay away from the cylinder. Evacuate everyone from the house and nearby areas. Call fire rescue immediately and notify them of the fire’s cause and the gas cylinder’s size. If no help is forthcoming, use soil to put out the fire.
If you manage to control the fire before it spread, the cylinder could be burning from within, apply cooling water to it for an hour. Also, monitor it for the period to ensure it doesn’t leak any gas. If the cylinder shows any compromise, let the supplier know.
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