HAZARDS OF LPG

Do you store or use Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) at your site? Do you understand the risk? In this article we look at what is LPG, the main hazards associated with LPG and what you need to do to control the risk.

Image of LPG storage tanks with a magnifying glass with a flame inside
What is LPG?

This article is general information only. For expert advice specific to your needs, get in touch.


WHAT IS LPG?

LPG refers to a mixture of gases (typically propane or butane) obtained from petroleum. The gas itself is odourless and colourless but in most applications an odourant is added to help detect a leak. In Australia Ethyl Mercaptan is used to give LPG a rotten cabbage odour.


Image of a domestic LPG cylinder
Domestic LPG Supply

You will most commonly encounter LPG in use as a fuel for appliances such as water heaters, barbecues, gas cooktops as well as for cars. LPG is typically stored at high pressure in liquid form in gas cylinders.






HAZARDS

Below are some of the main hazards associated with LPG. For a more complete list, consult the relevant safety data sheet (SDS).


An LPG cylinder attached to a barbecue is burning
LPG fire at a barbecue

FLAMMABLE


The most obvious hazard associated with LPG is that it is highly flammable. In the right concentration with air LPG can explode if ignited.





HIGH PRESSURE


LPG is typically stored under high pressure. Damage to poorly made storage systems can cause a violent rupture and a rapid release of LPG. LPG can form a vapour cloud around 270 times its liquid volume.


Did you know?

In Australia, LPG cylinders are fitted with emergency pressure release valves, if the pressure rises beyond safe levels, the pressure relief valve opens to vent the excess pressure. If this happens, you may hear a hissing sound and see cold gas vapour being released. Once sufficient pressure is released, the valve closes. It is important that this pressure release valve is positioned so that it may exhaust away from buildings and combustible materials and into an open well ventilated area. This is also why cylinders must be stored upright (so that gas escapes and not the liquid).



LOW TEMPERATURE


When stored in liquid form LPG is cold and rapidly absorbs heat as it expands into a gas. The expanding liquid can have a temperature around -42°C This can cause cryogenic burns (frostbite) for personnel handling LPG.



ASPHYXIANT

Although LPG itself is not toxic, it can displace the oxygen from the air making it difficult to breath in enclosed spaces. At low concentrations symptoms include nausea, headaches and drowsiness. At high concentrations this can lead to loss of consciousness, asphyxiation and heart failure.




REQUIREMENTS AND CONTROLS

LPG is classified as a dangerous good (Division 2.1 Flammable Gas) by the Australian Dangerous Goods Code. This means that the storage and handling of LPG is regulated by the law. In Western Australia that means the Dangerous Goods Safety Act and Regulations.


From there codes of practice such as AS/NZS 1596 can inform you what the industry best practice is for the safe storage and handling of LPG. The safety data sheet for the specific LPG product you are using will also have general guidance for the safe storage and handling of LPG. Some suppliers will also have useful guidance articles; such as this safety manual from Kleenheat.


The main controls to remember with LPG:

  • Keep well away from ignition sources

  • Ensure good ventilation and keep away from any holes or depressions in the ground where LPG can accumulate

  • All cylinders are to be secured in an upright position and protected from damage

  • Regularly check cylinders for signs of damage or leaks

  • Read the safety data sheet and ensure that all recommended personal protective equipment is worn correctly when handling LPG.


WHAT NOW?

Do you have LPG onsite? We can help you make sure it is stored and handled safely and in compliance with the relevant legislation. Contact us to have your LPG storage reviewed by a dangerous goods consultant accredited by the Department of Mines, Industrial Regulation and Safety. You can also find out more about LPG safety by reading some of our other blog articles.

Disclaimer

This article was prepared as general guidance only and based on information current at time of publication. The use of this information is at the reader's own risk, Cadre Engineering accepts no liability for any outcomes of following this guidance. For expert advice, specific to your needs, please get in touch.