MLGW: Odorant leads to reports of gas leaks

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC-TV) - An MLGW plant in south Memphis released a high level of Mercaptan into the city's natural gas pipeline system Monday, giving off a smell that could be confused as a gas leak.

Utility officials said Mercaptan is a harmless odorant added to natural gas to detect gas leaks which gives off a distinct smell similar to rotten eggs.  The substance was released as part of routine maintenance at the utility's Liquefied Natural Gas Plant in Capleville.

After the chemical was released, the utility began receiving an unusually high number of suspected gas leaks. MLGW officials suspect the calls are coming customers mistaking the smell of Mercaptan for gas leaks while using natural gas appliances.

Officials said the utility will investigate all customer calls, and issued the following list of safety procedures customers should use if a gas leak is suspected:

  • Do not light matches
  • Do not turn lights on or off or operate any electric equipment. The slightest spark could cause an explosion
  • Do not use the telephone
  • Evacuate the home or building immediately. Do not re-enter the building until you're told it’s safe to do so
  • Use a neighbor’s phone to call MLGW’s emergency hotline.

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