What Is the Smelliest Substance in Existence?

 In Natural Gas Safety

Skunk’s spray, rotting meat, bad breath, and swamp water all have something chemically in common.

Chemists tend to agree that a class of molecules known as ‘mercaptans’ are the smelliest compounds in existence. You might have encountered foul-smelling mercaptans in a skunk’s spray, rotting meat, bad breath, swamp water, and even some cheeses.

The official name for a mercaptan is a ‘thiol,’ and there are thousands of different kinds. They’re organic molecules with a chemical structure like that of alcohol – except instead of oxygen atoms, there’s a sulfur atom in its place – and that sulfur is what accounts for mercaptans’ characteristic stench.

Our human noses have an exquisite sensitivity to mercaptans. In billions of molecules of air we can detect just a few mercaptan molecules. Inside your house, when you say, “I smell gas,” you’re really smelling mercaptans. Natural gas is odorless. Gas companies add a mercaptan to natural gas so we can detect even tiny gas leaks inside our homes.

The name mercaptan comes from the Latin, mercurium captans, which means ‘capturing mercury.’ Mercaptans react with mercuric ions to form heavy metal precipitates, from which the word originated.

Some scientists use mercaptans for a quality other than its smell. Mercaptans like bonding to DNA. In laboratory studies of genes, special mercaptans that fluoresce or are brightly colored are attached to specific genes to tag them. That allows scientists to follow them during reactions.

But scientists tell us that, even in the lab, handling mercaptans is a stinky job.

This article was shared from EarthSky.

Midland Resource Recovery (MRR) sells mercaptan odor control fluids, such as Deomer, and Mask-O to reduce or mask the smelliest substance in existence, mercaptan.

Deomer – Mercaptan Deodorant

Deomer is a deodorant for mercaptan contamination. The liquid treats odorizer parts, clothing, tools, concrete, metal, and soil. The plant-derived active ingredient of Deomer removes the unpleasant smell by reacting with mercaptans and neutralizes the odor. The product is safe, non-toxic, water-soluble, and has a pleasant scent.

Winter Deomer is also available on request with added propylene glycol to inhibit freezing of the liquid.

Mask-O – Odorant Masking Agent

Mask-O is an orange masking agent, rather than neutralizing the odor it conceals the mercaptan smell with a fresh orange scent.

Both Deomer and Orange Masking Agent are available in a variety of sizes from 16-ounce spray bottles up to 55-gallon drums.

Related Odor Control Product

Carbon Filters – While the odor control liquids are a reactive means to address the odor from odorant, our activated carbon filters are a proactive solution to removing odor from the odorization area.

The Midland Resource Recovery (MRR) activated carbon filters are designed to eliminate mercaptan odor problems at odorization stations. Use the filtration systems either throughout the regular operation of your odorizer or during maintenance or odorant refills. Additionally, the odor removal system is excellent during a pressure release event, odorant transfers, equipment failures or odorant spills.

Carbon Filters

The MRR activated carbon filters are an environmentally responsible and proactive solution. The patented design provides long-lasting and cost-effective odor removal through adsorption, where the odor compounds become trapped inside the activated carbon bed. The filters consist of a bed of activated carbon and an air distributor designed to ensure maximum distribution throughout the activated carbon, enclosed in a DOT-approved drum. The air inlet and outlet are located on top of the drum, permitting easy handling and transportation.

The units are transferable and can be moved to different stations. The motors can come attached to the drum or detached. The detached option allows the user to move the motor to stationery drums at other sites.

stationary EZ Carb setup is ideal for an odorization room where the user can flip an electrical switch and power on the filter before entering.

Active Filters for Mercaptan Odor Removal

EZ Carb active filters are equipped with an explosion-proof 1/3 hp blower (200 CFM design flow) which is either mounted on top of the steel drum or detached (connected to the drum by a hose). The active filtration systems are Class I Div I approved.

These filters are available in 30 and 55-gallon drums. The 55-gallon drum assembly with a blower attached (EZ-055A) weighs approximately 270 lbs.

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