Importance of Natural Gas Odorization
Natural gas is a naturally occurring hydrocarbon gas that is inherently colorless, odorless, and tasteless. Natural gas is mainly used as a source of energy for heating, cooking, and the generation of electricity.
In 1937, one of the worst natural gas leak tragedies in history took place. The school in New London, Texas was utilizing natural gas to power their gas heaters. However, the natural gas being utilized during this time was un-odorized. On March 18, 1937, a large explosion decimated the school, resulting in the death of 290 students and teachers. This explosion was caused by a natural gas leak.
The explosion in New London, Texas became the driving force to odorize natural gas. Today, the U.S. government requires any combustible gas in a distribution pipeline be odorized such that a person with a "normal sense of smell” can readily detect its presence at 1/5th of the lower explosive limit in air. Odorization of natural gas is the first line of defense for protecting life, property, and the environment.
So, what is natural gas odorization? This is the process of injecting a chemical, an organosulfur compound known as mercaptan, into the gas to generate the rotten egg smell we all know so well. This allows for the presence of natural gas to be readily detectable, ensuring that individuals can identify, and safely react to gas leaks.