The recent gas explosion in Johannesburg’s Bree Street has rocked the nation with South Africans wondering if this type of energy is unstable and may cause more disasters.
The blast occurred within the city centre with reports that over 48 people were injured by the incident and one fatality.
The body of a of the male victim was retrieved from the debris early Thursday morning, according to Robert Mulaudzi, a spokesperson for the Johannesburg Emergency Management Services.
“Forty-one people were treated for serious injuries, ranging from moderate to minor, yesterday. They were transported to various health facilities for further medical care,” Mulaudzi was quoted as saying by IOL News.
Residents near Bree Street, where the incident happened also told IOL that they had problems breathing when what smelled like gas reached them.
Oil and natural gas company, Egoli Gas has reportedly detected a “small leak” in its pipelines. However, the business is said to believe that the split in the pipe was caused by the road collapsing.
So how could such an explosion happen in such a heavily populated area, putting dozens of lives at risk?
According to Combustion & Heating Systems, there are two options for using gas in a residential or commercial context: liquid petroleum gas (LPG) and piped natural gas.
Natural gas is an outcome of fossil fuel generation, primarily composed of degraded organic debris accumulated in the earth during the last 550 million years.
In contrast, LPG is predominantly obtained from natural gas and oil extraction, while it is increasingly derived from renewable sources.
“LPG refers to two natural gas liquids: propane and butane, or a combination of the two. While propane and butane are chemically quite similar, tiny changes in their characteristics mean they are best suited to specific applications.
“Propane has a lower boiling point, making it ideal for outdoor storage. It is generally used for central heating, commercial uses, cooking, and transportation. Butane is often transported in cylinders for use in portable applications like mobile heaters or recreational vehicles like boats and caravans,” said Combustion & Heating Systems.
Arrive Alive also emphasised that natural gas and LPG are hazardous materials that must be managed with extreme caution.
The campaign listed this four risks associated with gas:
- Faulty hose connections
- Cylinders that are broken or corroded/inadequate maintenance
- Putting a cylinder near a heat source
- A cylinder that was stored incorrectly
According to Combustion & Heating Systems, piped natural gas is mostly methane, with a small amount of other hydrocarbons.
“Since methane has a low carbon-to-hydrogen ratio, it burns fully, proving environmentally beneficial. In addition, methane is significantly lighter than liquid petroleum gas. As a result, PNG has a faster dispersion rate, making it less dangerous in the event of a leak” it said.
Arrive Alive offered these safety tips for when you smell gas at home:
- Please do not fire flames or make sparks to test for a leak when you smell gas, including smoking a cigarette.
- Do not use light switches, appliances, or phones.
- Leave the location with all of the doors and windows open.
- Do not try to blast away any escaping gas with an electrical fan.
- Turn the gas bottle valve clockwise to turn off the gas.
- Maintain the leak at the top so that only vapour and not liquid escapes.
- Keep your hands and face away from any leaking liquid stream, and use thermally insulated gloves if feasible.