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LCQ5: LPG vehicle stalling incident

     Following is a question by the Hon Leung Yiu-chung and a reply by the Acting Secretary for the Environment, Dr Kitty Poon, at the Legislative Council meeting today (June 1):


     In 2010, following a large number of stalling incidents in Hong Kong involving liquefied petroleum gas ("LPG") taxis and public light buses, the Electrical and Mechanical Services Department ("EMSD") set up the Task Force on the LPG Vehicle Stalling Incident ("the Task Force") to follow up the incidents. It was pointed out in the Investigation Report of the Task Force that the quality of LPG at Sinopec filling stations was suitable for use by LPG vehicles and did not affect the performance of vehicles. Moreover, the Task Force did not have any evidence to ascertain that the maintenance of LPG vehicles was a direct cause of the stalling incidents concerned. However, the Task Force considered that the maintenance and proper functioning of LPG vehicles were interrelated to a certain extent. Yet, it has recently been reported that hundreds of LPG taxis again stalled one after another. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(a) whether the authorities have compiled statistics on the number of cases of sudden stalling of taxis while travelling on roads last year; if they have, of the number of cases in which sulphur powder was found inside catalysts of taxis; if they have not, whether the authorities will consider recording such statistics in the future;

(b) as some members of the industry have reflected to me that a certain number of LPG taxis still have stalling problems after recent maintenance, whether the authorities can explain in detail the relation between the aforesaid investigation results of the Task Force and the stalling incidents of taxis which happened one after another recently; and

(c) whether the authorities have considered taking any new measure to solve the problem of frequent stalling of LPG taxis; if they have, of the details; if not, the reasons for that?



     Following the engine stalling incident of LPG vehicles (the incident) which took place at the beginning of 2010, the Electrical and Mechanical Services Department (EMSD) set up a Task Force on LPG Vehicle Stalling Incident (Task Force) to conduct thorough and in-depth investigation on the cause of the incident. Comprising experts, academics and trade representatives, the Task Force looked into the issue from different perspectives, including the LPG supply source, operation of LPG terminal and filling stations, as well as operation and maintenance of vehicles, etc. The investigation report was published in March 2010, and the Task Force could not rule out the possibility that the incident was caused by more than one factor.

     A Study Group on LPG Vehicle Testing Scheme (Study Group) was set up under the Task Force to oversee the LPG Vehicle Testing Scheme (the Testing Scheme). The Study Group was tasked to collect objective data for analysis and formulate appropriate improvement measures. The findings of the Testing Scheme were released in September 2010. The Study Group concluded that where LPG quality complies with the auto-LPG specification of Hong Kong, and with regular maintenance, the LPG vehicles should be able to operate normally.

     On the number of cases of sudden stalling of LPG taxis on the road, EMSD has been maintaining a 24-hour telephone hotline since early January 2010 to monitor and follow up the stalling of LPG vehicles. So far, the hotline has received a total of 195 reports of engine stalling incidents, the majority of which were received in early 2010. From January to February 2011, the hotline received four reports of vehicle breakdown. EMSD subsequently carried out inspections on four LPG taxis provided by the trade. It was found that the breakdowns were caused by ageing parts or incorrect adjustment of air-fuel mix ratio and were not related to LPG quality. The hotline has not received any report of stalling incidents since late February 2011.

     Among the vehicle breakdown cases received by EMSD, 23 callers mentioned that some powder was found in the fuel systems of the vehicles. As sulphur is a component of LPG, the presence of sulphur powder in the fuel system is normal. With regular maintenance, it will not affect the normal operation of LPG vehicles.

     In light of the problems of LPG vehicles, EMSD is actively following up the recommendations in the investigation report and the Testing Scheme report. Details are set out below.

LPG Quality

     EMSD will continue to review the independent testing reports submitted by LPG suppliers for each LPG shipment, to ensure that the quality of imported LPG complies with the specification. EMSD is also taking forward the LPG Sample Testing Programme, under which LPG samples are taken from LPG filling stations and terminals for testing. Since early January 2010, a total of 206 LPG samples have been taken from 62 LPG filling stations and 5 LPG terminals. Tests on samples have been conducted by accredited laboratory against the auto-LPG specification. Except for a sample taken in April 2011, the overall testing results of all other samples met our requirement. For the sample in question, deviation has been identified in its composition. Although such deviation did not have any impact on gas safety or vehicle performance, we have been closely following up the issue, to ensure that the concerned LPG supplier would resume supply only upon confirmation that its LPG meets the specification. All test results of LPG samples have been uploaded onto the EMSD website for public information.

Code of Practice for Servicing and Maintenance of LPG Vehicle Fuel System

     Key maintenance issues identified in the Testing Scheme, in particular the procedures that may easily be overlooked such as the maintenance of ageing or wearing parts, have been incorporated into the "Code of Practice for Servicing and Maintenance of LPG Vehicle Fuel System" (the Code). After consultation with the trade, the Code has been implemented since December 2010. EMSD has also held briefing sessions for the trade to explain the requirements of the Code. The information has been uploaded on the EMSD website for reference by relevant parties.

Maintenance of LPG Vehicles

     To enhance the technical know-how of vehicle mechanics in respect of LPG vehicle maintenance, the Vocational Training Council has agreed to incorporate key maintenance issues into the syllabus of relevant training courses. EMSD has prepared leaflets for the trade to provide technical advice on key issues of LPG vehicle maintenance, and in collaboration with the local agent of LPG vehicles, organised briefing sessions for the trade to enhance their understanding of vehicle maintenance issues.

Communication with the Trade

     Relevant Government departments will continue to maintain a dialogue with the taxi trade and related sectors, gauge views from the trade and experts, and closely follow up the LPG taxi engine stalling issue.

Ends/Wednesday, June 1, 2011
Issued at HKT 15:27


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