Natural Gas Leak Detection
Where Does Huntsville Utilities Distribute Natural Gas?
Huntsville Utilities distributes natural gas to approximately 50,000 customers through over 1,200 miles of pipeline throughout Madison County. If natural gas does not appear to be in your area, please contact us so that we can customize an installation plan and quote for you, or provide contact information to you for the other utility company that provides natural gas in your area.
The Huntsville Utilities natural gas system is inspected by the Alabama Public Service Commission annually for compliance with the Federal Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration rules and regulations. The Huntsville Utilities Gas Department performs regular maintenance throughout the year to ensure a safe natural gas system.
The purpose of this system is to provide the public, including residential, commercial and industrial enterprises, with a safe, clean source of energy for a variety of uses.
What is Natural Gas?
Natural Gas is an affordable and clean-burning fuel. It is a naturally occurring hydrocarbon gas mixture consisting primarily of methane. Natural gas is most commonly used for cooking, heating, and the generation of electricity. Use as a vehicle fuel is gaining popularity. Natural gas is produced domestically.
When handled properly, natural gas is a clean and safe form of energy. Appliances that are installed correctly and maintained according to the manufacturer’s guidelines will provide many years of worry-free service.
- Natural gas is lighter than air, allowing it to quickly dissipate into the air should a leak occur. Propane and other hydrocarbon fuels are heavier than air and will “settle” in low areas if a leak occurs.
- Natural gas has a much higher ignition temperature than other hydrocarbon fuels, igniting at 1,200°F, compared to ignition temperatures as low as 700°F for other fuels.
- In order for natural gas to ignite, there must be a limited concentration of natural gas mixed with air. The explosive range for natural gas in the air is 4% to 14% before ignition will take place. If there is less than 4% natural gas mixed with air, ignition will not take place because the mixture is too lean or does not contain enough fuel. If there is more than 15% natural gas mixed with air, ignition will not take place because the mixture is too rich or contains too much fuel to ignite.
- In its native form, natural gas is odorless, colorless, and tasteless. HU injects a very strong detectable odorant called Captan before it enters the local pipeline system. The injection of Captan into natural gas gives it a distinctive smell similar to rotten eggs. This odorant smell is detectable well before natural gas reaches the flammability range.
If you smell the odorant for natural gas you may have a leak. Please contact us immediately so that we can check the locations and secure any pipelines, homes, or businesses that may have a natural gas leak. Contact us at (256) 535-1200 to Report a Gas Leak anytime.
In the meantime, do not light matches, turn on lights on or off, and do not operate any equipment, cell phones, or electrical equipment such as light switches, door bells, etc. Advise all occupants to leave the house or building immediately if you smell the natural gas odorant inside the home or building. Do not re-enter the home or business until HU has cleared you to re-enter the premises.
Question: What do I do if I’m digging or having construction work done at my home, and I hit a natural gas line?
Answer: If you accidentally strike or dig into a natural gas service line or main line, please turn off equipment immediately, leave the area, and contact Huntsville Utilities.
Most of these types of accidents can be avoided by calling 811 “Call Before You Dig”. This action will provide all utilities a notification to come to your construction zone and mark in paint all lines that are located underground.
Natural Gas Safety
Visit the Safety Zone – Natural Gas Safety.
What Does Our Natural Gas Cost?
Natural gas is a commodity traded openly on the New York Mercantile Exchange (NYMEX) which is owned and operated by CME Group (Chicago Mercantile Exchange). Various factors, including but not limited to, available supply, perceived demand, weather, pipeline issues, storage levels and international concerns play a role in the cost of natural gas.
HU purchases natural gas from various producers in the SE supply region of the US, which includes both offshore production from the Gulf of Mexico, and onshore production from nearby supply basins.
HU transports the commodity through interstate transmission pipelines to Huntsville’s system. HU contracts for transmission through Southern Natural Gas, Tennessee Gas Pipeline and American Midstream. Southern Natural Gas and Tennessee Gas Pipeline are owned and operated by Kinder Morgan. HU, like other systems, is limited to the pipelines which deliver natural gas to our system. Rates charged by interstate pipelines are regulated by the US government’s Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC).
What comprises our natural gas cost?
- Commodity Prices: The commodity component of the rate is subject to increase and decrease based upon prevailing market prices, and demand. In order to minimize the likelihood of HU’s customer rates increasing and decreasing daily with market prices, HU hedges its commodity costs in order to provide rate stability.
- Transportation & Storage: Transportation & Storage costs are fixed costs necessary to transport, store and distribute the commodity to HU’s customers.
- City of Huntsville 6% in lieu of taxes: HU pays the City of Huntsville 6% throughput in lieu of taxes.
- HU Operating Margin: HU’s operating margin is the final rate component. This charge covers all HU costs relative to natural gas operations, maintenance, and administration. This component is changed periodically if recommended by an external cost of service analyst.
The percentage of each component varies based upon the cost of the commodity. For example, the greater the cost of the commodity, the greater the percentage this rate component requires. It is recommended that the use of a percentage for each component be tempered with an understanding that the percentages rise and fall with the price of the commodity. Current commodity and transportation & storage costs represent 76% of HU’s residential rate.
HU is a non-profit municipal system governed by a Board appointed by the Huntsville City Council.
Gas Public Awareness Program
The Huntsville Utilities Gas System Public Awareness Campaign is dedicated to educating our customers about natural gas. Our program is designed to reach the following objectives:
- To educate our customers how to recognize the odor of natural gas and how to respond if they detect possible gas odors. Early recognition of a gas odor and proper response can save lives.
- To raise the awareness of the affected public and key stakeholders of the presence of buried natural gas pipelines in the communities we serve. A more informed public will also understand what steps that they can take to prevent third party damage and respond properly if they cause damage to our pipelines.
- To help excavators understand the steps that they can take to prevent third party damage and respond properly if they cause damage to our pipelines.
- To educate the public on the symptoms of carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning and the appropriate treatment should CO poisoning be suspected.
- To educate the public about the protection of gas meters from damage by falling objects or other hazards.
HU Gas System Community Resources
The HU Gas Department provides a wide range of resources to the local community in order to support the safe and effective use of natural gas as an energy source.
- Public Awareness Meetings & Seminars
- Education Days Programs for local school systems, private schools and home school students
- Certificates of Completion for gas safety programs
Huntsville Utilities, in cooperation with the Alabama Public Service Commission’s Gas Pipeline Safety department provides natural gas firefighting training to local fire departments and volunteer fire departments every couple of years.
Gas Pilot Lighting
Natural Gas customers occasionally need their pilot light lit, especially as cool weather nears and gas heating systems are needed. Reasons the pilot light may have gone out may include maintenance work done on the gas system in the area during previous months or the customer may have extinguished the pilot to save energy during warm weather.
To request pilot lighting by Huntsville Utilities call (256) 532-8342, Mon.-Fri. 7 a.m. – 3 p.m. or complete the online Report A Problem form at www.hsvutil.org/report-problem.
Call early to avoid delays. Once cold weather arrives, there may be a 2 to 3-day wait for the pilot lighting service due to the large number of requests. Huntsville Utilities lights pilots on natural gas heating systems, water heaters and natural gas fireplace log systems.
Huntsville Utilities will only light pilots and does not service or repair appliances. A service charge may apply.
Natural Gas Leak Detection