Talk True is a Zikoko limited series for medical myth-busting. For this special episode, we’re considering the safety of the newest invention in Nigeria since the fuel subsidy removal: cooking-gas-powered generators
In his inaugural speech on May 29, 2023, President Bola Tinubu bluntly announced plans to remove fuel subsidy which would inevitably result in the increase of fuel pump prices.
As if we didn’t have enough problems
What followed was acute fuel scarcity nationwide, panic-buying and an eventual increase to over ₦500 per litre in June. Fuel prices have risen AGAIN in July to over ₦600 per litre. One way Nigerians are dealing with the new cost is by reducing dependence on fuel, a situation which birthed the conversion of fuel-powered generators to gas-powered ones.
Some users claim these generators are more economical, but is it really safe for use? Kay Oyewole, a safety professional, provides answers.
How is the conversion from fuel to gas possible?
“Petrol generators may be the right term for what we commonly use in Nigeria. Generators generally have a system that allows them to burn fuel to generate usable electricity. ‘Fuel’ in this situation can be petroleum, natural gas (methane), or the one typically used for cooking: Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG)”, Kay says.
It’s not a complicated process to convert a petrol generator to one that runs on cooking gas. In fact, the only change required is the generator’s carburettor.
“Using a gas carburettor does the trick. Some may decide to change it entirely to gas, while others use a converter that allows you to switch from fuel to gas.”
Is it safe to use?
Kay confirms that gas-powered generators are safe to use but emphasises the need to observe all safety precautions.
“Make sure that any alterations are made by qualified technicians, rather than just anyone claiming to know how to do it. Users also need to properly maintain the gas cylinder just as they would the ones used for cooking.
It’s important to test the gas cylinders every five years for usability, replace the accessories (like valves, hose, regulators and clips) every 2-3 years and watch for leaks. If there are no gas leaks, the converted gas generators are absolutely safe.”
Feel free to carry go
But is it actually economical?
Even though the price of cooking gas dropped recently, the difference may not be significant. Kay doesn’t feel optimistic about whether the use of gas for fueling generators will be cheaper than fuel in the long run.
“It may turn out to be cheaper, considering the recent fuel prices, but it might not be a significant amount. I’ve seen people claim gas-powered generators last longer for fewer kilograms of LPG, but it also depends on individual use. More research needs to be done on that. But of course, if there’s even a small chance of saving money, especially with how inflation is these days, it’s a welcome option.
Anything to save the coins
In terms of environmental friendliness, though, LPG is a better fossil fuel than petrol because of its reduced emissions and lower levels of nitrogen oxides.” Kay notes.
Cooking-gas-powered generators are safe to use as long as a qualified technician has modified them properly and ensured that there are no gas leaks. As to whether they’re cheaper than using petrol, the jury’s still out.