What’s That Smell? Sniffing Out the Truth About Natural Gas

The smell of bacon cooking on the stovetop? A perfect start to the day. But if that bacon starts smelling like it’s being served with a side of rotten eggs, you might be dealing with something different altogether — a natural gas leak.

But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. Curious as to how natural gas gets its smell and why? Turn that “pee-ew” into a “phew” with our simple video:

Think you “nose” everything about natural gas now? Not quite – but we’ll help you become a natural gas safety expert. Let’s break that down:

So, what does natural gas smell like?

Believe it or not, in its original form, natural gas is actually undetectable to the human nose. Instead, an additive called “mercaptan” is added to the fuel, giving natural gas that rotten egg smell.

Why does it smell?

Actually, it’s the law; according to the U.S. Department of Transportation Code 192.625, natural gas must be “readily detectable by a person with a normal sense of smell.” This is so our noses can be our built-in safety detectors for possible natural gas leaks. If the symptoms of a natural gas leak go unnoticed, there could be dangerous levels of carbon monoxide in your household.

What do I do if I smell natural gas?

If you smell something sulfur-like in the air (or skunk-like, rotten egg-like, or trash-like), don’t stick around to see if your breakfast has gone bad. If you suspect a gas leak, leave the premises. Once you vacate, call 911 or Atlanta Gas Light at 770-907-4231 (inside metro Atlanta) or 1-877-427-4321 (outside metro Atlanta) to report it.

Now you “nose!”

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