Natural gas has very limited range of flammability -- in concentrations in air below 4 percent and above about 14 percent natural gas will not burn. It also has a very high ignition temperature, about 1,200 degrees F. The high ignition temperature and the limited flammability range make accidental ignition or combustion unlikely.
Generally, natural gas accidentally released in the open will vent harmlessly into the air. However, when a gas and air mixture within the flammability range collects in a confined space, it can ignite accidentally.
If you smell gas inside a building or house, you should:
- Alert others and leave the area immediately.
- Leave open any doors you pass through to help ventilate the area, but don't take time to open windows.
- Do not operate any electrical switches or equipment, including telephones and flashlights.
- Call the local gas company from a telephone outside the area. Our associates are available to assist you 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
- Remain away from the area until the gas company declares the area safe.
If you are outside and smell the odor of natural gas, call the local gas company from a telephone away from the area. The most common cause of outside gas leaks is excavation or construction activity that disturbs pipelines. Do not allow contractors or others to dig or drill on your property unless they have first checked with the local "one-call" system or with all local utilities to determine the location of buried pipe and cables.
Federal and state regulations require utilities to odorize natural gas so that “the gas is readily detectable by a person with a normal sense of smell.” Atmos Energy uses precise odorizers, and our technicians routinely monitor the odorant concentration with instruments throughout our pipeline system.
The sense of smell for most people is a highly reliable indicator of a natural gas release. However, a continued exposure to mercaptan, the most typical odorant added to natural gas, can desensitize the sense of smell. Therefore, if you ever smell leaking natural gas, do not wait! Leave the premises immediately and call Atmos Energy or 911.
If you suffer from anosmia, olfactory fatigue or recurrent ailments, such as colds, sinus conditions or allergies, you might have a diminished capability to detect a natural gas leak. Using tobacco, alcohol, medications or narcotics can lessen your ability to smell odorized gas. Pungent odors from chemicals in some lines of work and off-gassing of new building materials also can mask the odor of mercaptan.
If a medical condition or your lifestyle might prevent you from smelling natural gas, use all your senses—smell, listen and look—to check for telltale signs of a leak.
Frequently Asked Questions: Safety Information