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Why do we detect an odour when LPG leaks

Your mother might have warned you many times to tell her if you ever get a pungent smell from the kitchen. The smell might have been from a gas leak. Read on to know what it actually is. And what you should do when you detect a leak.

What is natural gas?

Natural gas is an odourless gas. It consists of several gases that occur naturally under the earth’s surface. This gas consists of compounds made of two elements of carbon and hydrogen called hydrocarbons. The most common gas in natural gas is methane. Natural gas is considered to be the safest form of energy. This is because the gas itself is not toxic and it is easy to discover when there is a gas leak.

What is that bad smell?

The red cylinder you see in your kitchen contains the natural gas that’s used for cooking called Liquefied Petroleum gas (LPG). Sometimes, due to an accident or if the valve is not closed properly, the gas from it may leak.

If natural gas is odourless, then how do you smell a LPG leak?

You must thank your gas supplier for this. Your gas supplier mixes odourless natural gas in the form of LPG with strong smelling pungent gases to help you detect a leak very easily. A gas like hydrogen sulphide which smells like rotten eggs is added to natural gas. With that strong pungent smell, you can easily know if there is a leak. The same principle works for gases that come in pipes.

Gases like hydrogen sulphide are mixed to give natural gases their pungent smell.

Human noses can easily detect sulphur compounds that belong to the Thiol class. Other compounds like ethanethiol and propanethiol are added to increase the amount of smell that these gasses give. These compounds are called warning agents, because they help warn you of a gas leak.

What you should do if there is a gas leak?

If you are in the kitchen and get a strange smell, first remember to check if the stove is off. Then open the windows and go tell your parents or an adult, and make your way outside! Natural gas is a very light gas. So if the windows are open it will quickly be removed from a room. Remember never to switch on any electrical appliance, since the spark created may ignite the gas. 

Tags :     Everyday Chemistry     Natural Gas     Odourless Gas     Hydrogen Sulphide     Sulphur Compounds     Thiol     Ethanethiol     Propanethiol    


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