Friday, March 18, 2016

March 18 is Natural Gas Utility Workers Day

Why do we remember March 18? And why does natural gas smell so bad? There's a story behind it. Today is national Natural Gas Utility Workers' Day! March 18 is the date of the New London, Texas school explosion in 1937 that led to the widespread odorization of natural gas and an increased emphasis on safety. We add a rotten egg smell (mercapton) to natural gas, which is normally odorless, so you can detect gas leaks. The New London school was heated with 72 gas heaters. The School Board canceled their natural gas contract to save money and had plumbers install a tap into a residue gas line to extract the natural gas, which would have just been burned off. The connection to the residue line was faulty. Gas built up inside the enclosed crawlspace of the school and was ignited when an electric sander was turned on, causing a spark that ignited the gas-air mixture. The death toll was approximately 295, the third deadliest disaster in Texas history. The Texas legislature mandated within weeks that mercaptan be added to natural gas, the strong odor making leaks quickly detectable. The practice spread worldwide, as did increased awareness of the need for natural gas safety awareness. Safety is now a vital aspect to natural gas distribution. The employees of the Department of Public Utilities endeavor to make natural gas delivery as safe as possible. Our natural gas utility workers work hard every day to keep your home warm, your clothes drying, your food cooking, your showers hot, and your hamburgers grilling.

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