All but 0.1% of gas escapes reported by the public are responded to within one hour, the annual report on safety by the Commission for Energy Regulation (CER) has revealed.
There was a total of 18,147 reports of gas leaks by members of the public in 2012 — a decrease of 7.3% on the previous year.
However, the CER said no leak was detected in the majority of cases. Just 18 reports of suspected gas leaks were not responded to within the one-hour specified limit by Bord Gáis engineers.
External leaks occurring on a service or a main were confirmed in around 26% of cases. There were almost 2,600 internal leaks detected last year, accounting for 14% of the reports of gas escapes by the public.
The number of reports of meter tampering almost tripled with 134 cases recorded — up from just 50 in 2011. The CER said the increased detection might be due to the ongoing meter replacement programme, installation of pre-payment meters, and vigilance by Bord Gáis staff.
The CER also reported an increase in the number of escapes from the gas transmission network operated by Bord Gáis — up from two in 2011 to nine last year. However, the CER claimed all the leaks were resolved, while none were due to pipe deterioration.
A total of 452 reports of damages to gas mains and services by third parties were reported — a decrease of 21% on the previous year.
The CER said the decline was a positive trend as third- party damage posed one of the biggest risks in terms of potential damage to the gas network.
The CER also expressed concern about the level of unclassified leaks, which mostly occur at meter installations. There were two network outages last year affecting some 242 customer properties, while the number of safety disconnections increased by almost 2%.
Bord Gáis carried out 2,084 disconnections where a customer’s gas installation was deemed unsafe.
There was no fatal natural gas incidents last year but there was one gas explosion at a house in Leixlip, Co Kildare, where a person required hospitalisation. An investigation is ongoing.
Three people have also been prosecuted for carrying out illegal gas works since the Registered Gas Installer scheme commenced.
A total of 38 cases of non-registered individuals were investigated by the CER in 2012 but 25 were closed due to insufficient evidence. A further 10 cases were closed as the installer was registered, while three remain under investigation.
The number of approved gas installers rose by just over 1% last year to 2,969. The CER has set a target of inspecting each installer on an annual basis.
However, the number of registered electrical contractors continued to decline, falling almost 6% in 2012 to 4,264.
The CER will also assume legislative responsibility for the regulation of safety at oil and gas exploration and extraction facilities from Nov 30.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved