What does Natural Gas smell like?

Natural gas leak detection and what to do
February 7, 2015 – 05:13 pm

In light of the tragic San Bruno fire, we all know about the horrific consequences when natural gas is exposed to a sudden impact, a spark or a flame. But before the threat escalates to a serious tragedy, we have the ability and technology to isolate the gas leak and remedy the situation.

In most cases, the first alert sensor to detect a natural gas leak is a person’s sense of smell. There have been numerous reports that the residents in San Bruno complained about the smell of natural gas in the neighborhood, days before the tragic explosion on Sept 9, 2010. Investigators are researching what became of those complaints.

The natural gas industry takes many precautions to keep people safe. One of the biggest safety measures is odorizing natural gas. By itself, natural gas is odorless, tasteless, colorless and non-toxic (unless in confined spaces). For this reason, a tiny amount of odorant, generally t-butyl mercaptan (and at times thiophane), is injected into natural gas with an odorant injection system. This idea came to light after an undetected gas leak lead to the explosion where nearly 300 students and faculty were killed at a school in New London, Texas, in 1937.

Ways to detect and isolate a natural gas leak

Utility worker isolating a leak with gas leak detector If a person smells natural gas and a utility worker or emergency responder is called to the scene, they should be able to isolate the location of the gas leak by using a portable combustible gas indicator (CGI). Additionally, gas leak detection solution, a compound similar to liquid soap, is an effective tool to pinpoint gas leaks.

In industrial settings, industrial gas detection sensors can monitor large areas and flag gas leaks.

Certainly, technology is available to detect, and isolate the location of a gas leak. But the best first alert detection we have, thanks to odorant injection systems, is the nose.

What do you do if you smell natural gas?

  • If you detect a faint natural gas smell (rotten eggs or cabbage smell) in your home, don’t panic. Is it possible that one of your appliance’s pilot lights simply went out? Open the windows and try to quickly isolate the concern by checking the pilot lights on your appropriate appliances (range, gas fireplace, furnace, water heater, gas dryer, etc.). If you cannot quickly isolate the problem, leave the building with windows open and call your utility company from outside your home.
  • On the other hand, if you smell a strong natural gas odor – leave. Do not use anything that could spark, like light switches, computers, flashlights, phones, appliances, garage door openers or elevators. Do not touch electrical outlets, doorbells or switches. Everyone in the house should leave and take your pets. Obviously, refrain from smoking and using a lighter or matches. Do not start a car or powered equipment near where natural gas is present. LEAVE. Once outside and safely away call 911 or your utility company from outside your house.

We have the ability to detect natural gas with our sense of smell. When you smell a strong gas odor, leave the building and call 911.

Source: www.lincenergysystems.com
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Popular Q&A
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How is natural gas used in the US?

Natural gas is used primarily for heating our homes in the winter months. It is also used to heat water and to wash clothes. Another use for natural gas is to fuel many vehicles, such as garbage trucks and transit buses. It is becoming a much more popular form of vehicle fuel.

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