Gas tank graveyard has Mexico City residents enraged

Aerial view of the former 18 de Marzo refinery, where disused LP gas cylinders are seen, in Mexico City, on April 4, 2022. Thousands of LP gas cylinders in bad condition have ended up in the former refinery. The smell of LP gas prevails in that area, and they live in fear of a gas explosion. (Photo: AFP)
MEXICO CITY — Thousands of disused gas cylinders sit outside under the sun at a former refinery in Mexico City, producing a foul smell that neighbors say has made their lives a nightmare.اضافة اعلان

Almost every night, Cesar Rivera and his wife leave their apartment because the odor becomes too much, the 37-year-old web programmer told AFP.

“The smell is so strong at night — so unbearable — that it’s like the stove isn’t turned off properly,” he said.

The couple also fear that the liquefied petroleum gas seeping from the cylinders — which are used by many households in Mexico City — will cause an explosion or make them sick.

“The building administration has asked us not to smoke or use the stove burners when the smell’s stronger. It has completely changed our lives,” said Rivera.

Aerial images taken by AFP show what looks like a huge graveyard in the west of the capital, surrounded by residential districts. But instead of human remains the disused refinery of state-owned oil giant Pemex has become the resting place of thousands of old multicolored gas cylinders.

LP gas, made up mainly of butane and propane, is odorless so producers add mercaptan to give it a nauseating smell that allows it to be detected.

Although “the gases produced by its combustion are not toxic or carcinogenic” a leak can cause a build-up that “can be explosive and can suffocate people in small spaces,” Mexico’s National Commission for the Efficient Use of Energy says on its website.

The tanks were stored at the old refinery by the state firm Gas Bienestar, which was created in 2021 to expand competition in the sector, after exchanging old or damaged cylinders free of charge for new ones.

In January, the Mexico City authorities said in a statement that Pemex was in the process of removing them.

Contacted by AFP, the company said it was unable to give an interview about the matter.

Mexican civil protection authorities did not respond to a request for information about the risks posed by the cylinders.

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