What is natural gas odorization? Why do we odorize? What is the difference between an odorant, an odorizer, and odorization?
The Problem: Natural Gas is Odorless
Odorization is the first line of defense against odorless and combustible gases.
Natural gas by itself is odorless and combustible. In other words, a fatal combination. In fact, one of the worst tragedies in the United States involved a gas leak at a London, Texas school in 1937. In that situation, the non-odorized gas ignited and the explosion took the lives of over 200 students and teachers.
Not everyone has at their disposal natural gas leak detectors,
but most people with normal senses are capable of detecting a gas leak. First and foremost, if you suspect a gas leak
is present, do not ignite a match, lighter or any flame source. Resist from
switching electrical switches, or turning lights on or off. Evacuate the area,
get to a safe place, and call 911. Continue reading
When someone suffers from anosmia, he or she is unable to smell the odorant used to odorize natural gas. A hyposmia sufferer may also be unable to detect the gas. With both medical conditions, a dangerous situation would present itself if there was ever a natural gas leak.
Anosmia or Hyposmia Smell Disorders
Unfortunately, not everyone has an ordinary sense of smell. While some people may have a diminished sense (hyposmia), others are unable to smell at all (anosmia). Some studies have suggested on average 1-2 % of North Americans have impaired smell. Causes of reduced olfactory perception range from aging, allergies, viral infections attacking the olfactory nerve, medications, hormones, diseases, and other conditions, though some people are born with no sense of smell (congenital anosmia). Continue reading
Pickling or pre-odorization is a process used to prep new gas pipe before commissioning for use. In new gas lines, it is very common to experience odor fade or have the natural gas odorant scrubbed or removed from the gas stream, therefore making it odorless, a significant safety hazard.
In a new pipe, odorant molecules attach to the pipe wall. Therefore, the odorant no longer remains in the gas stream, and it becomes odorless. The pipeline continues to adsorb the odorant until the line becomes saturated, then the odorant begins to stay in the gas. It is unclear, however, how long this process can take which is why it is common to “pickle” the line to speed up the progression.
When an odorant level in a natural gas stream depletes, it is scrubbed, resulting in odor fade. This causes safety issues as the natural gas odorant is no longer able to be perceived by smell. What are the causes of scrubbing and odor fade?
Why can’t I smell natural gas?
In an earlier post, we share that the regulations require the odorant level in a natural gas stream to be based on a person having a “normal” sense of smell. Did you know that there are very common factors that may impede your ability to smell natural gas? Are you at risk? Visit Why can’t I smell natural gas? to learn about the factors hindering the capacity to smell natural gas.
Aside from having a perception concern, if the odorant is removed or scrubbed from the natural gas stream it becomes odorless and that represents a considerable safety hazard. Continue reading