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How do you know when there's a natural gas leak?

Did you know?

“Natural gas is naturally odourless,” says Chris Wilcock, FortisBC laboratory technologist. “So we add trace amounts of a pungent chemical called mercaptan to our natural gas because we want you to smell it if there’s a leak somewhere.”

Mercaptan has a strong scent, like boiled eggs that have been left in your lunch bag for a few days. “If you smell something like that, it’s a signal to leave the area and call for help because there might be a natural gas leak,” Chris says.

With a chemistry education through BCIT’s gas and technology program and over 17 years of experience in the lab, Chris is well-qualified for the job of testing our natural gas to make sure it has just the right amount of mercaptan added to it.

“We’re proud to be one of the few natural gas utilities in North America to have our own in-house odourant analysis lab,” Chris says. Located at our Surrey Operations Centre, this is where he uses a lot of high-tech lab equipment like photometric detectors to analyze the mercaptan levels of natural gas samples from our pipelines across the province.

“It’s all about ensuring we deliver perfectly balanced natural gas to our customers, to keep their homes warm and businesses running,” Chris says.

That’s energy at work.

Chris had a special visit from Global BC to show the behind the scenes why, how and what gets added so that customers get a warning signal if there is ever a natural gas leak.

If you smell rotten eggs or hear the sound of escaping gas, it could be a natural gas leak. Remember:
  1. Stop what you're doing. Do not use your cellphone or landline, don’t smoke, light matches or operate electrical switches or create any other source of ignition.

  2. Go outside. As you exit, leave the door open behind you as well as any windows that may already be open.

  3. Call FortisBC. Once outside, call FortisBC’s 24-hour Emergency Line at 1-800-663-9911 or 911.

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