When You Smell Gas

When You Smell Gas

Mercaptan

Natural gas is one of the safest, most efficient and most reliable forms of energy available. But, like any energy source, natural gas must be used properly.

Since natural gas is colorless and odorless, we add a harmless, non-toxic chemical that makes it easier to detect a gas leak. The chemical, called mercaptan, has an order similar to rotten eggs. If you aren't familiar with it, call Columbia Gas DirectLink at 1-800-432-9345 and ask for a "scratch-n-sniff" card that provides you with a sample of the odor.

In a concentrated form, the odor is almost unbearable. And it takes only a few parts per million of mercaptan to give natural gas an odor. That is precisely why we add it to natural gas. If we did not add mercaptan, it would be hard for you to know that unlit natural gas was coming from your stove after you left the valve turned on. And leaks from furnaces and hot water heaters would be nearly impossible to detect without expensive equipment. So mercaptan's smell is a very valuable safety feature.

Mercaptan contains sulfer – that's what gives it an odor. The kind we use blends well with natural gas and, in a gaseous state, has properties similar to natural gas, so that it will rise and dissipate with natural gas.