When liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) is stored and used in installations compliant with relevant health and safety legislation and industry codes of practice, it is a safe fuel. However, when it is not the results can be catastrophic. In May 2004 a gas leak from a corroded buried pipe led to an accumulation of gas in the basement of a Glasgow plastics factory. This resulted in an explosion which caused the building to collapse – nine people were killed and 33 were injured, some critically.
To reduce the risk of another incident the UK LPG industry and the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) strongly advise that underground metallic pipework should be replaced with pipework made from non materials such as polyethylene (plastic) which won’t corrode.
Replacing buried metallic pipework/fittings at commercial and industrial premises throughout the UK is a major undertaking and therefore needs to be prioritised based on the risk of pipeline failure and LPG entering a nearby building. HSE worked closely with the UK LPG industry to develop an initial high level plan for the replacement of these types of buried service pipes. The initial aim was to replace pipework in all higher priority premises by the end of 2013 with the remainder to be replaced by the end of 2015.
In the summer of 2010, a group of independent experts was asked to review the progress of the programme and to make recommendations about future next steps and timescales in relation to the remaining buried metallic pipework in industrial/commercial premises and the level of risk it presents in the context of a wider consideration of risk and normal business operations.
They recommend in their report that the replacement of higher priority pipework should continue to the original timescale of the end of 2013. For the remaining pipework, on the basis of the level or risk involved the expert group recommended extension of the timescales to the end of 2020 for carbon steel pipe and by the end of 2025 (or when it has been in place for 50 years) for copper pipe. For carbon steel pipework, the expert group recommended further reprioritisation as follows:
Priority 1: Premises with medium pressure carbon steel pipework aged 10 years old or more at the time of the 2009/10 survey AND where any one or more of the factors listed below apply should be resolved by the end of 2015.
- Regularly occupied by members of the public or
- regularly occupied by more than 5 other persons, or
- a cellar, basement or other significant below-floor void is present.
Priority 2: Any other premises with carbon steel pipework should be resolved by the end of 2020.
The Government have accepted these recommendations and the revised timescales which now apply to the programme.
The programme of replacing pipework started in October 2009. If you have not yet completed a questionnaire and have buried service pipework then you can complete the survey online.
If you are waiting to have your pipework replaced more information is available about inspecting and maintaining your pipework in: