LCQ 18: Stalling incidents involving LPG vehicles

     Following is a question by the Hon Wong Sing-chi and a written reply by the Secretary for the Environment, Mr Edward Yau, in the Legislative Council today (December 7):


     Regarding the large number of stalling incidents involving liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) vehicles which occurred in Hong Kong in 2010, the Secretary for the Environment (SEN), in reply to questions raised by Members of this Council on November 17, 2010 and June 1 this year respectively, indicated that "since early January 2010, a total of 206 LPG samples had been taken from 62 LPG filling stations and five LPG terminals [by the Electrical and Mechanical Services Department].  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" .  SEN also pointed out that there was already an internationally recognised independent laboratory in Hong Kong which could provide such testing service in trial operation since the middle of this year.  In addition, SEN also indicated that "the Vocational Training Council (VTC) has agreed to incorporate the key maintenance issues into the syllabus of future training courses on the maintenance of LPG vehicles so as to enhance the know-how of vehicle mechanics in respect of LPG vehicle maintenance".  In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(a) of the respective numbers of cases of sudden stalling of LPG taxis in each year since 2008, together with a breakdown of the numbers by month;

(b) regarding the aforesaid LPG sample which did not meet the requirement as shown in the sample test results, of the details of the Government's follow-up actions with the LPG supply company concerned; and how it ensured that LPG supplied by that company already met the requirement before resumption of its supply;  

(c) whether it knows the particulars of operation (including the locations and hours of operation, the schedules of its trial operation and formal commencement of its service, the number of testing personnel, the preset monthly capacity of testing service it can provide, as well as the average number of tests conducted in each month at present, etc.) of the aforesaid independent laboratory since its trial operation; of the number and particulars of operation of laboratories which can provide the aforesaid testing service in Hong Kong at present;

(d) whether it knows the progress of VTC in offering the training courses related to the repair and maintenance of LPG vehicles since late 2010; whether there are sufficient instructors or professionals responsible for teaching such courses in VTC or other institutions; if there are, of the details; if not, the reasons for that, and the Government¡¦s counter measures in place;

(e) given that SEN indicated that "in general, LPG supply companies have developed internal work procedures (including the water draining operation) that can best meet the characteristics of their LPG sources and the design of their terminals" , how the Government ensures that LPG supply companies comply with all the relevant work procedures; whether there is any mechanism in place at present to monitor the work procedures of such companies, as well as any penalty put in place in respect of LPG supply companies which fail to complete all the relevant work procedures; if there is, of the details; if not, the reasons for that, and whether it will consider introducing the relevant mechanism and penalty; and

(f) of the Government's criteria for determining that the current work procedures of LPG supply companies are adequate to assure the quality of LPG and ensure normal operation of gas piping; whether it has any plan to formulate a set of official criteria for the work procedures for reference of or compliance by LPG supply companies?



     Our replies to the questions raised by the Hon Wong Sing-chi are set out below:

(a) Following the engine stalling incidents of LPG vehicles happened in the beginning of 2010, the Electrical and Mechanical Services Department (EMSD) set up a 24-hour telephone hotline in early January of the same year to monitor and follow up the incidents. The number of engine stalling incidents received by the hotline is set out below :

Number of engine stalling incidents
            received by the hotline

Month           2010      2011
January              141        2
February              9        2
March                 2        0
April                 3        0
May                   0        0
June                  1        0
July                  0        0
August                0        0
September             0        0
October               0        0
November             34        0
December              1        -
Total :             191        4

     As the hotline was set up in early 2010, we do not have the statistics for 2008 and 2009.

(b) From early January 2010 to mid-November 2011, EMSD collected a total of 273 LPG samples from 62 LPG filling stations and five LPG terminals. The samples were sent to accredited laboratories for testing against the auto-LPG specification.  Except for a sample taken in April 2011, the overall testing results of all other samples met the requirements.

     For the sample in question, the ratio of propane/propylene and butane/butylene failed to meet the auto-LPG specification. Although such deviation did not have any impact on gas safety or vehicle performance, upon receipt of the test result, EMSD immediately asked the LPG supply company concerned to stop selling auto-LPG.  After the company had replaced the auto-LPG at all of their filling stations as required, EMSD examined the LPG quality test reports submitted by the company and arranged separate LPG quality tests on all affected filling stations.  EMSD agreed to the re-opening of the LPG filling stations only after the LPG quality was confirmed to be compliant with the specification.  EMSD also instructed the company to strength its measures in monitoring the LPG quality and stepped up the sampling of LPG supplied by the company.  All samples taken thus far are compliant with the specification.

(c) An internationally recognised testing organisation in Shatin expanded its laboratory facilities to provide LPG quality testing services and commenced the services in March 2011. This testing centre is currently the only recognised laboratory in Hong Kong providing LPG quality testing services. All auto-LPG samples are now sent to this laboratory for testing.  The centre is run on commercial principle.  We are unable to provide its operation information.

(d) The Vocational Training Council (VTC) has been providing "LPG Vehicle Servicing" training courses since January 1999 and "Servicing of LPG Fuel Injection System" training courses since September 2009. Since April 2011, VTC has incorporated the key maintenance issues identified in the course of implementing the "LPG Vehicle Testing Scheme" into the syllabus of the relevant training courses, so as to strengthen course participants' knowledge in the maintenance of LPG vehicles.

     Since September 2010, 60 people have enrolled for the "LPG Vehicle Servicing" training course and 36 for the "Servicing of LPG Fuel Injection System" training course. According to VTC, there are 16 qualified instructing staff for teaching the relevant training courses; the number is adequate to meet the training demand.

(e) and (f) LPG supply companies develop internal work procedures, including receipt of LPG from tankers, storage at terminals (such as water draining operations), delivery by road tankers and storage at filling stations, with regard to the characteristics of LPG sources and the design of terminals.  EMSD has been conducting regular site inspections and audits on the work procedures and in-house records in connection with the LPG supply chain to ensure that the relevant procedures are in compliance with general trade practices.  Should there be any inappropriate work procedures, EMSD will advise the LPG supply companies to implement improvement measures or follow up with these companies in accordance with the provisions of relevant regulations.

     The inspection and audit results show that the LPG supply companies have been implementing appropriate work procedures. We consider that the existing monitoring mechanism is effective in ensuring the quality of LPG and normal operation of its supply.

Ends/Wednesday, December 7, 2011
Issued at HKT 14:24