Keeping Natural Gas Safe – What Exactly Is Mercaptan
Mercaptan is also known as methanethiol and is a harmless but pungent-smelling gas which has been described as having the stench of rotting cabbages or smelly socks.
It is often added to natural gas, which is colorless and odorless, to make it easier to detect.
The gas is an organic substance, made of carbon, hydrogen and Sulphur, and is found naturally in living organisms, including the human body where it is a waste product of normal metabolism. It is one of the chemicals responsible for the foul smell of bad breath and flatulence.
The great advantage of mercaptan for industrial purposes is that it can be detected by most people in extremely small quantities, less than one part per million. This makes it an ideal additive to odorless gases, and, like natural gas, it is flammable.