How long will gas kill Ukrainians
Our homes will explode until we restore the control system, improve the networks and strengthen the accountability of utilities and consumers
The committee of experts discovers the reasons for the next “gas emergency” in Ukraine. This time in Krushelnytska Street in one of the sleeping areas of Kiev, where at least three people died from the explosion, as well as more than fifty apartments were damaged and completely destroyed. Unfortunately, emergencies related to the use of domestic gas (bottled and network) occur quite often and sometimes with fairly serious consequences. For example, on October 13, 2007, in a 10-story building on Mandrykovskaya Street in Dnepropetrovsk, 23 people were killed and 20 others injured. According to the investigation, the accident occurred due to a malfunction of a gas distribution point. The following year, 2008, the “apartment block” in Yevpatoriya “trembled” – on December 24, 27 people died there. The explosion occurred due to the depressurization of a gas cylinder.
About these and other accidents – in Ukrinform infographics. We will try to generalize the circumstances which generally lead to such incidents. And most importantly – conclusions and expert advice: how to prevent future tragedies?
The “established” causes of “the gas emergency”
Today, 309 thousand kilometers of distribution networks (GDS) are used for the supply of gas in Ukraine. The service life of more than 18.5 thousand kilometers has already expired. Some of them – 10-15 years ago. In addition, according to experts, at least 15,000 km of gas distribution stations are in poor condition. From 4 to 5.5 thousand gas distribution and control points must be replaced or overhauled (this represents approximately 6 to 8% of their total). Hence the main conclusion on the causes of gas accidents.
1. Depreciation of networks and equipment.
“Now, unfortunately, there is every reason to say that accidents related to gas leaks cannot be avoided in the near future,” said Adrian Galach, editor of Industrial Security magazine, in a comment to Ukrinform. “Ukraine is one of the oldest gas networks in the world. 100 years of gas service. And in Lviv, for example, the network is over 160 years old! A” solid “age requires proper maintenance – at least minus diagnostics, to make sure gas pipelines and equipment work properly. Unfortunately, almost no one does “
2. Lack of information on the state of the networks and data on their owners.
Industry has long demanded a comprehensive audit, experts say. Indeed, in many cases, it is not even known when the gas distribution stations were put into service, who and how they served them before. Additional questions: who is serving them now and is it safe to operate these networks and equipment?
It is also necessary to clearly resolve the issue of ownership. Indeed, disputes continue over the ownership of many networks. Thus, the process of “transfer of responsibility” continues. It is clear that no one invests in the maintenance of these “controversial” objects.
It is also necessary to take into account all cases of unauthorized interference by citizens and businesses in the gas supply system. Sometimes these are illegal network connections. In most cases, this is an unauthorized connection of gas equipment. For example, people often change the location of a gas stove or column during their repairs at their discretion.
3. The “vagueness” of responsibility.
Adrian Galach calls it one of the shortcomings of “modern management”, according to which the responsibility of the supplier of “blue fuel” by law ends when the gas pipe is introduced into the house. The rest is the responsibility of the owner of the home ownership, the housing maintenance organization, the management company or the OSMD (depending on the form of ownership). In such circumstances, the principle of “baby and seven nannies” is quite often triggered. And although everyone seems to know that in no case should you forget the rules for the use of gas equipment, it is prohibited to install and check them yourself, you must regularly invite prevention specialists – we have what we have. In rural areas, maintenance works seem to be better. In cities, the “gasman’s foot” has not entered for decades not only in the kitchen, but sometimes even in the entrances of residential buildings. Sometimes (a hint of a hint that traders in the capital might have caused installers’ errors when removing gas equipment for inspection) and the repairers themselves need additional checking. One of the reasons: because of low wages, many experienced specialists have moved to work in another location or have gone to work abroad.
4. Lack of signaling and public information systems.
“There are hardly any alarms in our homes anywhere that made it easier to detect gas leaks in the early stages,” said Oleg Golubenko, an expert in housing and community services, on the Ukraine TV channel. 24. “The gas analyzers, which were installed in relatively new houses, in most cases they were not even connected to the networks. But set up such an accident prevention system with the current technical capabilities is not so expensive … “” And even there is no system to inform citizens of actions in case of suspicion of “gas danger” “, added the expert.
Adrian Galach also complains about the lack of outreach work: “Now the gas industry workers take the resource consumed very well and quickly send payment orders. But they forget to check the equipment carefully and d ‘Regularly inform people about the rules for using gas appliances. But it would be useful to give with these payments and relevant memos, to explain the dangers of such a “blessing of civilization” as domestic gas .
5. Excessive monopolization of the industry.
According to Oleg Golubenko, separate subjects are the monopoly of companies operating and serving gas networks in specific regions and colonies, the non-transparency of tariffs and the lack of control over the use of funds that distribution companies receive consumers. According to the expert, the tariff does not include expenditure on modernization and progressive replacement of the networks (the problem is exacerbated by non-payments). But you cannot wait for your own initiative and the “voluntary” investment of your funds by the monopolies. But demonopolization will stimulate competition for the customer not only because of a drop in the cost of services, but also because of an improvement in their quality.
And the layman understands: using the old networks is an additional expense of gas and money that is spent to keep the system in working order. Judge for yourself: in Western countries, gas losses in the networks do not exceed 1-2%, in Eastern Europe – 2.5%. In Ukraine, they reach 6%. In other words, we can safely add this 6% to our payment amounts. After all, monopolies transfer losses by default to consumers. And most importantly – the more replaceable the hoses and gas equipment, the higher the level of danger to people. The Krushelnitskaya accident is another confirmation.
6. “Lack of attention” to ventilation systems.
Another cause of the “gas” explosions, Adrian Galach calls for the liquidation of the specialized services involved in ventilation controls. A malfunction here leads not only to explosions, but also to accidents linked to carbon monoxide poisoning. For decades, no one has tested and cleaned these systems. Sometimes during repairs, apartment owners completely block the ventilation openings. It’s so much prettier, and the unpleasant odors of the neighbors will not fall into my “fortress” …
Gas supply system: ways to minimize risks
In order not to completely lose the gas distribution system, to increase its reliability, its security and to guarantee the conditions of use corresponding at least to average European indicators, Ukraine must invest 10 to 12 billion hryvnia in the replacement and modernization of networks for at least 5 years – they say experts. Obviously it will be difficult to find such a resource. Therefore, the “cheapest” option is the reconstruction of emergency sites. But for this you need to spend several billion hryvnia per year. And such “patching” will also last at least 5 years. Indeed, according to experts, in our towns and villages, on average, for 100 meters of gas pipelines, there are “problematic” sections. Consequently, even such a patchwork repair will make it possible to “preserve” the situation with the emergency network, to stop the geometric growth in the number of emergency sections. Even if significant technological loss of gas without complete modernization cannot be avoided …
Of course, recent changes in the domestic gas market aim to make a difference. According to Ukrainian law “on the natural gas market”, the “investment component” appeared in the structure of the regulated “gas” tariff. Part of the funds that network operators receive must go, among other things, to replace physically obsolete pipes and equipment. However, the monopolists complain: this money is sorely lacking. In addition, in response to the question: “what has been done to improve the operational characteristics of a resource created once at the expense of taxpayers, whom they have not used for decades?” Most owners are “modestly” silent. In these conditions, the country was confronted with the question of creating an effective mechanism of legal impact on the entities of the natural gas market both to establish a monitoring of the state of the networks and to stimulate investments in their use and updating. Such attempts already exist. In particular, the law obliges each concessionaire of gas distribution networks to develop and coordinate with its National Commission for National Regulation of Energy and Public Services (NKREKU) its own investment plan and to respect the timetable for its Implementation. The State thus encourages operators to constantly invest in modernization, which should ultimately increase our level of protection against accidents in the gas industry. But most of these plans are still on paper.
What if you replace gas with electricity?
So maybe it is better to go the other way? On social networks, calls circulate to abandon the daily use of gas and switch to electric heating of the rooms and the kitchen. Housing and municipal services specialist Oleg Golubenko is rather skeptical about the idea.
“We are talking about economic feasibility, technical capabilities and technological problems. Gas is the cheapest resource for heating. Convenient for cooking. Even from the point of view of the diversification of energy resources for domestic use, the use gas is normal European practice. The only question is the level of safety “Said the expert. You have to admit that in everyday life it is really practical to have an alternative. For example, in the absence of light in the house, all of whose vital systems are “tied” to power, it is even impossible to boil a kettle or heat milk for a baby. If there is gas in the house, then sitting without light is much “more fun”.
Who said that everything was in order with the electrical networks?
Besides, who said that everything was in order with the electrical networks? Experts also warn that without proper investment to update them for several years, collapse is usually possible in this area. And the current problems of the electricity market oh how to catalyze these destructive processes! In some places, (local) power lines can no longer support the load. One thing when it comes to building new neighborhoods with the provision of all the necessary networks of sufficient power. And when a kind of “candle” is pushed between the “Khrushchevs” in the microdistricts, where the lines laid in the years 1960-1970 are already overloaded? Yes, and even if you imagine that instead of gas stoves, electric stoves will be installed in each of the hundreds of apartments of these “Khrushchevs”, even the most modern of which “eat” a lot of energy …
But, according to Oleg Golubenko, an integrated approach to solving gas safety problems is still possible. If you measure seven times before cutting. That is to say, in each case, calculate carefully: in which houses and under what conditions it is possible to refuse the supply of gas. At the same time, the expert recalls the mass transfer of the owners of many apartments and whole houses of low buildings to autonomous gas heating. And he warns: in 20-25 years, and they can start similar gas “problems”.
Conclusion – the gas supply sector, like any other complex survival system, requires constant attention and regular investment. Therefore, you don’t have to wait for the network to be completely exhausted and, God forbid, problems arise. One of the options to “interest” distribution system operators, housing and operating organizations, management companies and OSMD is liability insurance for housing and municipal service providers. And optional – universal household insurance for their homes.
About the opportunities they offer and the associated problems – in the next Ukrinform article on “gas”.
Vladislav Obukh, Kiev
According to the materials: ukrinform.ru