7 ways to prevent future explosions
BY: Ayomide Arowobusoye
“I saw a tanker reversing in my front, immediately it came back, it hit a bar and fell. Immediately the tanker fell I removed my keys from the car and ran out, I saw fuel spilling close to me, I raised alarm to others around, that was how I escaped. The next minute there was an explosion”
This was the tale of one of the survivors of petrol tanker explosion that happened on Otedola Bridge on Thursday June 28, 2018. He is among the very few who were lucky enough to recount their experiences. In this particular incident, the government declared that 12 lives were lost, (a claim faulted as too low by many) and about 54 vehicles set ablaze. This is just one of such several incidents the country has witnessed, and one of the least destructive.
Is this New?
The incidence and prevalence of gas and tanker explosion in Nigeria have been occurring at alarming rate over the years. Investigations show that the nation has lost nothing less than 100 lives to gas and tanker explosions in 10 months, from January to October 2020.
The over 100 lives lost means 100 hopes lost. Over 100 fates dashed. Over 100 Nigerians who left their houses in search of daily bread but never returned and instead were sent to early grave. It also means over 100 families ruined; children separated from their parents and husbands separated from their wives. Properties worth several millions of naira destroyed with many rendered homeless, jobless or both. On a larger scale, the gas and tanker explosions intensify the hardship and poverty in the nation.
Breakdown of gas explosion and tanker fire accidents in the last 10 months
- On January 14th this year, a tanker carrying PMS or petrol exploded close to a welder’s shop in the Amawbia area of Awka in Anambra state. The explosion was said to have been caused by a spark from the welder’s shop while the tanker was passing by. Four people lost their lives including the welder.
- On the 15th of March, an explosion occurred in Abule – Ado area of Lagos State killing about 23 people, leaving many injured. The ensuing fire destroyed over 100 homes and dozens of vehicles.
- On the 22nd of July, 2020, there was a fuel tanker explosion at Benin-Sapele express way. It occurred in Agip, leaving 3 dead and several injured. It was caused by a spark from a vehicle conveying traders to the local market which ignited the inferno that engulfed the tanker.
- On the 14th of August, a petrol tanker explosion at Irete along Owerri/Onitsha road, Owerri, in Imo state left two dead.
- On 23rd September, 2020, Wednesday, a petrol tanker lost control due to brake failure, leading to an explosion which happened at Felele area in Lokoja-Abuja highway in Kogi state At least 25 people were killed, 2 motorcycles were destroyed, 5 cars were destroyed, 3 tricycles were destroyed also with all the occupants of the vehicle killed.
- On Thursday, September 24, 2020, Ifako – Ijaye area of Lagos experienced a gas explosion that killed at least 16 people and left at least 50 people injured and killing at least 16 people.
- On Thursday, 6th of October 2020, a gas explosion rocked the Baruwa area of Ipaja, Lagos State. It claimed 5 lives and while 8 people sustained injury, 89 shops were burnt, 47 buildings razed and 10 vehicles were destroyed. The explosion was caused by the station’s generator which was left on while the tanker was discharging products into the storage tank.
- On Saturday, October 17, 2020, an articulated vehicle, carrying a container loaded with clothes experienced brake failure and as a result collided with a petrol tanker on Otedola bridge, Lagos. The result was an explosion that destroyed so many vehicles.
What as been done?
Last month, Federal Government placed a ban on all petroleum trucks above 45,000 litres capacity from plying Nigerian roads. There have also been laws by state governments around restricting the movement of petrol tankers and trucks to prevent them from plying the same route as vehicles.
The Senate, earlier this month, directed its Committees on Petroleum Downstream, and Gas Resources to investigate the remote and immediate causes of gas tanker explosions in parts of the country, with a view to preventing a reoccurrence and report in two weeks.
Furthermore, the Senate also urged the Regulatory and Licensing Authorities of the Department of Petroleum Resources, DPR, State Town Planning Authority, the Fire Service and the Federal Road Safety Corps, FRSC to review the modus operandi, safety procedures and licensing regimes of this potentially combustible business and mode of transportation of gas in Nigeria. DPR also gave stringent guidelines for the establishments and operations of downstream gas facilities in Nigeria.
What fuels this fire?
The causes of this menace spans across a variety of factors. It should be clear that in many cases, the accidents are not acts of God, but rather due to human error or carelessness. Everyone gets a slice of the blame pie; the government, the regulatory bodies, the unions, the workers in the oil and gas industry, every citizen of the country.
According to Mr. Yemi Sebanjo, Managing Director and C.E.O of Babskol Concepts Services Ltd, a consulting firm for Oil & Gas Downstream Businesses and Mr. Adedotun Bamigboye, Chief Executive Officer of Dot&Dash Energy, the primary causes of these explosions in the country are:
- Non-adherence to the Oil & Gas safety precautions, leading to equipment failures.
- Deplorable state of roads
- Gas Leakages: When leakages from the tankers and trucks mix with smoke (from Generators, can exhausts, or even as little as firewood smoke), and phone vibrations, naked wires, it can amount to explosions.
- Pipeline vandalization
- Some gas companies operating without licenses. This leads to carrying out operations and activities that are illegal, and ultimately results into frequent gas explosions.
- Gas establishments defaulting in their ability to meet the baseline standard regarding Health, Safety and Environment (HSE), in their facilities.
- The slow rate of gas penetration has led to the reduction of operational safety, as well as, ease of doing business in the oil and gas sector.
What is the way forward?
Government seems to be asking the right questions at the moment and making correct moves to curtail the explosions and fire outbreaks. History has, however, shown that the government needs more than just restrictions and certification of roadworthiness to effect the needed change.
What should be done?
Mr. Sebanjo, who worked as General Manager of Mobil Oil Nigeria plc, Oando plc, Rahamaniyya Oil & Gas Ltd, Wosbab Energy Services Limited; and Mr. Bamigboye also suggests that the following can prevent explosions.
- Regulatory agencies like Department of Petroleum Resource, DPR and Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, should perform effectively the role they are assigned.
- The Government should also set up a task force for compliance of the set standards.
- The operators of the equipment (e.g. the truck drivers) should refuse to operate when defects are observed
- Nigerians should also avoid phones being around gas. So there shouldn’t be phones in the kitchen.
- Gas plants should not be found in residential areas so that smoke will be far from gas
- There should also be fire extinguishers around
- The gas truck engines should always be off.