» Metal-theft crime wave
Last year, 200,000 gas cylinders were stolen across the UK by scrap metal thieves, at a cost to the liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) industry of £9 million. Calor Gas Ltd’s cylinders accounted for 50% of these thefts – 100,000 steel gas cylinders with a market value of £4.5 million.
Almost three-quarters of Calor Gas’s business comes from providing gas to homes and businesses which are off the mains supply, mostly in rural areas.
Paul Blacklock, Head of Strategy and Corporate Affairs at Calor Gas, which sells more than 6 million gas cylinders a year through over 12,000 UK outlets, said that the cylinders cost up to £60 each to manufacture.
“For the last 75 years we have never needed a system to track our gas cylinders, but that has changed. There is a criminal element at play here. This is beyond casual theft.
“It is these cylinders that have fallen prey to the metal-theft crime wave. It is happening in some of the most remote communities in the country.”
Calor Gas has written to the managers/proprietors of 1500 scrap yards in the UK urging them not to accept the stolen steel cylinders. Even a nominally empty cylinder will contain traces of the highly flammable gas and represents a hazard to anyone involved in removing valves or cutting up the cylinder. Fires, serious injury and avoidable deaths have all been recorded.
Some of the bottles have been seen in scrap yards with their bases taken off or even cut in half. And one man was recently found hitting gas cylinders with a sledgehammer in a public car park in Newark in Nottinghamshire in an attempt to remove the brass valves prior to selling the stolen cylinders.
Recently Land Rover Monthly magazine ran an article showing readers how to make traditional-looking wood-burning stoves out of old gas cylinders.
Paul Blacklock wrote to the magazine, saying “We hope your insurance is good.”
At the start of December last year, 110 Calor Gas bottles were taken from a depot in Cardiff in what appeared to be organised raids. One gas cylinder has been spotted as far afield as Tanzania, where the company does not do business.
The police are reluctant to act, believing that evidence of ‘theft’ is too difficult to establish. It is for this reason that the debate in the House of Commons today is of crucial importance to the LPG industry.
“The UK police force and enforcement authorities need to take this seriously,” says Paul Blacklock.
“The Scrap Metal Dealers Act of 1964 needs to be updated to require the dealer to obtain further information on the individual or business supplying the scrap metal. Regarding the illegal export of the cylinders, formal recognition needs to be granted that the unauthorised handling of all LPG cylinders is a crime.”
For further information please contact Holly Sims at Calor Gas Ltd on HSims@calor.co.uk