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Opinions of Wednesday, 11 October 2017

Columnist: Ellis Prince Antsroe (CEO, Antlis Oil & Gas)

Setting fuel stations outside cities not solution to explosions

It is not only in Ghana that petrol stations are sited in the cities or towns! In fact, even if one sets up a filling or service station at outskirts of the cities, development will eventually catch up with the location.

Take Spintex Road into consideration, it was a complete bush some years ago but now a major spot in Accra. Look at Accra-Tema motorway for instance, it used to be outside of town, but now we have buildings all around motorway.

Again, if you look at the trend in Ghana, you will see that once a filling station is set up anywhere, that place becomes a place that all other people want to do their small scale businesses. This is because the location becomes busy to enhance their business activities. So it’s not actually about the locations.

Technically, here in Ghana, unlike in the advanced countries, the owners of the filing stations (OMCs and mostly Dealers) have failed to put in place all necessary safety mechanisms.

1) Firstly, OMCs and their Dealers do not employ technical people (trained personnel) to run their stations because their profit margins are relatively too small for them to pay professionals to do the work.

Meanwhile, fuel stations are considered hazardous everywhere in the world and so we expect people with Health, Safety, Security and Environment (HSSE) backgrounds to lead operations at the stations.

This is not the case in Ghana! Running of fuel and gas stations in Ghana are left for untrained, virtually uneducated and inexperienced people, just for very little wages. This is the first thing to change and not the location! 2) Most of the fuel stations lack:

i) Smoke/Fire Detectors

ii) Gas Detectors

iii) Danger Alarm Systems

iv) Hazard Symbols and Warning Signs etc

This is another thing that has to change and not necessarily the location of the fuel stations.

3) No adherence to Dangerous Substances Regulations. This has to stop too! OMCs and their Dealers must uphold international industry best practices such as:

i) Storage tanks, dispensers and pumps must be adequately maintained and monitored

ii) Efficient wet stock management procedures must be used

iii) Identify hazardous areas and control all sources of ignition

iv) Prevention and dealing with any spillages during discharge

v) Putting off of engines of tankers during discharge

vi) Putting off of engines of all vehicles purchasing fuel at the stations

vii)Checking of weather conditions before discharge

In order to enable the OMCs and their Dealers to adhere to all the above, the NPA has to:

1) Rather reduce the number of fuel stations required to qualify for an OMC licence. NPA should concentrate more on the technical ability of the companies that apply for the licence. (Just as a pharmacy licence is issued only when there’s a trained pharmacist, same can be replicated here)

2) NPA has to reduce the tax components in the price build-up in order to increase the Marketer’s margin and the Dealer’s margin. This will make it possible for the OMCs to spend more money on maintainance and compliance. NPA can better and boldly sanction recalcitrant companies. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), has to continuously inspect all fuel and gas stations periodically in order to advise and direct operations as much as possible.

As a country, when we do all these, explosions will be reduced drastically. Setting up of fuel stations outside of towns or cities does not in itself take out explosions.

Looking at LPG (cooking Gas), what we need now is “Bottled Gas”. This means, the LPG marketers will have to fill their customised cylinders at their highly regulated depots and in turn distribute the already filled cylinders to the public. Once you bring your empty cylinder, you take a filled cylinder home.

This is what is done in most other countries where they don’t use pipe gas or depend heavily on electricity for cooking purposes.

Take a look at fuel stations below in the heart of mega cities in the US, UK and Dubai.

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