Natural Gas Safety

Information and safety tips for natural gas.

Gas Safety

AT 907-452-7111 or 911.

If you smell gas:
DON’T operate any cell phones, land-line phones or pagers in the vicinity of the gas. These could cause a spark.
DON’T turn a light on OR off or other electrical equipment or appliances that could cause a spark.
DON’T light matches, lighters, cigarettes or anything else that might create a flame.
DO Leave the door open when leaving to help ventilate the building.
DO Evacuate yourself and all others from the building or area immediately.

Once outside or in a gas free area, such as a neighbor’s house or nearby business, telephone IGU at our 24-hour number, 907-452-7111 or dial 911 in case of an emergency. Teach children to leave when they smell gas, relocate to a neighbors house and call the gas company. Do not re-enter the home or business until the gas company or fire department has declared it safe.

Natural gas is odorless, tasteless and non-toxic. Because of this, IGU injects a chemical called Mercaptan into the gas stream before it enters the distribution system. Mercaptan has very strong sulfur-like odor similar to rotten eggs. IGU injects enough of the chemical into the gas stream to be detected at gas levels well below it’s ignition point, so even the smallest leak can be detected and repaired quickly. Mercaptan, in the amounts present in our gas stream, is not harmful, before or after it burns. The additive is completely and safely consumed when ignited at the furnace or gas appliance.

-Bill Stuffer: Welcome to Interior Gas Utility! Natural Gas Safety Basics


Don’t risk hitting a buried gas line. Before you dig or move earth in any way, call for a free gas locate. Starting in January of 2003, IGU has joined with Alaska Digline, Inc and the Locate Call Center of Alaska, the statewide 1-Call System. By calling 811, you will be connected with the Call Center of Alaska and the Alaska 1-Call system. They will then inform IGU of your request for gas utility locate. Information regarding the 1-Call System and the law supporting utility locates can be found at Alaska Digline, Inc.

Natural Gas is delivered to homes and business by way of an underground pipeline system. The pipe is made of High Density Polyethylene (HDPE) specially designed for natural gas distribution. Natural gas pipes used around Fairbanks are black with two yellow stripes running down either side. This is the only pipe used for natural gas. If you accidentally hit this pipe during excavation, whether you think you have damaged the pipe or not, call IGU immediately at 907-452-7111.

Know What Is Below

Call 811 before you dig for
free utility locates.

What is Natural Gas?

Natural gas is a naturally occurring petroleum based fossil fuel that may be found along with oil, coal or by itself. Natural gas is the by-product of once-living plant and animal organisms decaying over millions of years. Natural gas hydrocarbon is similar to propane and butane. Natural gas, as it comes out of the ground, is a mixture of gases consisting mainly of methane (85%-95%). Other gases, such as ethane, propane, nitrogen, carbon dioxide, water and sulfur compounds, may be present with the gas. The gas IGU distributes is 99.7% methane because of liquefaction process requirements.

Methane, the main component of natural gas, has a boiling point of -259 °F (-162 °C). That means it turns from liquid to gas at -259 °F. If you are familiar with characteristics of propane during extreme temperatures experienced during Interior winters, you will know that propane will not vaporize and turn to gas at temperatures colder than -44 °F (-42 °C) . Natural gas will never experience this problem, even on the coldest of Interior nights. Natural gas is about half as light as air. Because of this, natural gas will dissipate and rise very rapidly. Propane, on the other hand, is heavier than air, and will pool close to the ground.

Natural gas is odorless, tasteless and colorless. Because the gas is odorless, IGU adds a harmless amount of a chemical called Mercaptan into the gas stream for easy detection if gas is ever accidentally released into the atmosphere. Mercaptan is a highly detectable sulfur based compound that is similar to the smell of “rotten eggs.” The Mercaptan is completely consumed when burned and is not harmful in the quantity found in IGU’s gas. Natural gas is also non-toxic, non-poisonous and non-corrosive. Although methane is not harmful to the human body, it can be an asphyxiant. Asphyxiants displace oxygen making the atmosphere difficult to breath.

For your information, here are MSDS sheets for natural gas (as methane) and liquefied natural gas LNG
– MSDS sheet for Methane (Natural Gas)
– MSDS sheet for LNG

-Bill Stuffer: Natural Gas Safety- Detecting a Leak

Download a free copy of Acrobat PDF viewer here

Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

Carbon Monoxide (CO) is a colorless, odorless gas that is produced from the combustion of fossil fuels, including natural gas and heating oil. CO poisoning can cause flu-like symptoms and can be fatal at certain levels and conditions. Generally, levels below 70 ppm are considered safe, but one should avoid any exposure to CO. CO poisoning can be prevented through proper appliance installation, maintenance, and use. The Consumer Protection Safety Commission recommends installing at least one UL or IAS listed CO alarm in the hallway near your bedrooms. Follow manufacturers installation instructions and test the unit frequently. For more information on this subject visit Carbon Monoxide – Questions and Answers, or call our office.

-Bill Stuffer: Carbon Monoxide Safety

Children Play Safely

Teach small children to stay away from ranges, furnaces, and fireplaces and to keep toys and paper away from appliances. Do not stand, play, hang or attach anything from gas meters or piping. Instruct children as to what and where the gas meters and associated piping look like and where they are located so as to be able to avoid them.
To help your children to learn more about Natural Gas Safety please click the button below to download the 811 coloring book!

Protect Gas Meters and Pipes

Don’t stand on, play on, attach to, or drop heavy objects on gas meters or piping. Keep clear access to gas meters and valves. Emergency and company personnel must have easy access to the emergency gas shut-off valve in case of emergency. Do not store or hang tools on or against gas meters. Know and locate the main building or home shut-off valve as well as the appliance shut-off valves in case of uncontrollable leaks. If you ever notice or cause damage to a gas meter or associated piping, please call IGU or your heating or plumbing contractor as soon as possible for repairs.

-Bill Stuffer: Natural Gas Pipeline Information
-Bill Stuffer: About Your Piping

Winter Meter Safety


Snow and ice that collects on and around the gas meter and piping can be dangerous!

  • A blocked gas regulator or exhaust vent could cause gas to back-up into the building.
  • Falling ice and ice build-up can damage gas meters and piping. Use caution to remove ice, and avoid banging or kicking gas pipes.
  • Repair leaky gutters or install protection over the meter to prevent ice build-up.
  • Emergency responders need clear access to the shut-off valve. Shovel snow and ice away from building.

-Bill Stuffer: Winter Meter Safety

Natural Gas is Safe

Natural gas has been in wide use in the United States for over a century and now in Fairbanks North Star Borough for over 20 years. If used properly, like any form of energy, it will provide you with clean, safe energy for your home or business for years to come.