Beyond the Build

Continuing Education

Danger Below

Gas MainA number of years ago, I was near a building that had a natural gas leak in the basement, which ultimately caused a fire and destroyed the building. This week I asked Danny Boone, our civil manager, to share some thoughts on natural gas. While not an exciting topic to most, it’s still something to be mindful of.

Digging even as shallow as a mailbox or irrigation system can present problem with natural gas. If a pipe is scraped, punctured or exposed, it could weaken the pipeline, causing future leaks. Calling 811 Know Whats Below Call Before You Dig, prevents damage 99% of the time.

A few ways to detect a leak:

  • Sight. A pool of liquid, a dense white cloud or fog, discolored plants, water bubbling without obvious reason, an oily sheen on water, frozen ground in warm weather, dirt blowing up, flames or vapors.
  • Sound. A hissing, whistling, roaring or a bubbling sound may be heard near the pipeline.
  • Smell. An unusual smell near the pipeline. Natural gas is primarily odorless in the gathering and transmission pipelines until the mercaptan (rotten egg smell) is added prior to local distribution.

An ounce of prevention.

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Merrill Stewart Jr.

Merrill Stewart is Founder and CEO of The Stewart/Perry Company, a commercial building contractor based in Birmingham.