The lure of a cheap refill of gas for leisure cylinder owners from autogas dispensers is both illegal and dangerous and service station owners are urged to be very vigilant to prevent this happening on their forecourts.
Not all Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) is the same. LPG used in home gas appliances including barbecues is propane whereas autogas used to power road vehicles can contain a mixture of butane and propane. The different mixture of gases in autogas can affect its combustion process. It won’t provide the same heating effect and can lead to the production of excess carbon monoxide and other noxious substances with potentially fatal consequences in poorly ventilated spaces.
It is not only the use of the gas where there is a risk. Most importantly for service station owners, there are even greater risks on the forecourt from using an autogas refueling dispenser to fill an LPG leisure cylinder as well as those associated with subsequent transport and storage of the cylinder. LPG leisure cylinders do not have an automatic fill limiting device that is found in automotive tanks which is designed to work in conjunction with the autogas dispenser to ensure that the cylinder is not over-filled. If over-filled, leisure cylinders are more at risk from exposure to high temperatures, such as when placed in a vehicle or left standing in the sun. Heat causes the pressure in a cylinder to increase, and as the liquid expands an overpressure can cause the cylinder pressure relief valve to discharge LPG. This could lead to ignition of the gas being discharged which could cause a serious fire emergency or explosion.
In addition, filling a leisure cylinder from an autogas dispenser requires the use of an unapproved adaptor which introduces an additional unacceptably high level of risk.
Further, LPG leisure cylinders are subject to an assessment of the cylinder’s condition prior to filling, along with appropriate training and expertise of operators. This and the use of compliant equipment, along with a safe environment, all contribute to ensuring that LPG cylinders are filled in the correct safe manner.
From a legal perspective, various State and Territory Government gas safety regulations recognise AS1596 Storage and Handling of LP Gas as the regulatory requirement for autogas operations. This standard which includes requirements for automatic fill limiting devices specifically states:
“Only cylinders that are permanently mounted on a vehicle to fuel an internal combustion engine or liquid phase burner shall be filled from an automotive fuel dispenser at a service station.”
Service station operators are advised to be vigilant to prevent the misuse of autogas on their forecourts as operators may be liable if there is an incident on or off the forecourt.
Guidance for service station operators on the safe management of LPG is provided in the Australian Standard AS1596: The storage and handling of LP Gas.