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Basic Natural Gas Safety

To effectively deal with a potential problem, you should have a basic understanding of the reactions that can be expected with natural gas (methane) and carbon dioxide (CO2) under given situations.  Some basic knowledge will help in dealing with possible situations that may prevent an emergency and what action should be taken in an emergency.

  • Natural gas (methane) is neither toxic nor poisonous.  Tests show that concentrations of 25 percent gas mixed with air produce no ill effects.  However, if this gas displaces the air in an enclosed space, suffocation can occur because of the lack of oxygen. When natural gas (methane) is released in a confined space, the highest concentration will be at the highest level, and air will be displaced from the top downward.
  • Most natural gas (methane) is odorless in its natural state. It is in a vapor form, and therefore, it is almost impossible to detect without some type of gas detection equipment.
  • The ignition point of natural gas (methane) is in the range of 900 to 1200 degrees Fahrenheit. This temperature is reached by pilot lights, flint sparks, matches or sparks from electrical switches or motors.  The explosive range of natural gas (methane) is 5 percent to 15 percent.
  • Natural gas (methane) is lighter than air. Natural gas (methane) will rise and diffuse rapidly when it escapes to an open area.  The specific gravity of natural gas (methane) is in the range of 0.56, and the specific gravity of air is 1. 
  • Lighter-than-air natural gas (methane) should not be confused with liquefied petroleum gas.  This gas is more commonly called L.P., bottle gas, propane, butane and various other trade names.  Liquefied petroleum gases are all heavier than air and will collect in low places when not confined.
  • Carbon dioxide (CO2) at room temperature and atmospheric pressure is a colorless, odorless, slightly acidic gas. It can exist in all three physical states (solid, liquid and gas) depending on temperature and pressure.
  • CO2 gas is an asphyxiate, a potent respiratory stimulant, and both a stimulant and depressant of the body’s central nervous system.
  • The specific gravity of pure CO2 is 1.53. That means it is 1.53 times heavier than air. Extreme care should be taken in the event of a CO2 pipeline leak as CO2 will tend to settle in low areas in and around the leak site should those exist.