A cleanup opperation is underway in Penn Township in Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania, following the spilling of a small amount of the chemical methanethiol at a well pad operated by Apex Energy on Friday 2 December 2016. Only about 60 grams of the chemical were spilled, but this required a considerable cleanup effort due to the strong odour emitted by the chemical. This has involved the removal of a layer of topsoil after initial efforts to deodorize the spill failed (thiol spills are typically deodorized with bleach compounds).
A container of methanethiol. MSDS Online.
Methanthiol is highly flamable, toxic and considered to be harmful to the environment at quite low concentrations. However it is mainly problematic for the same reason it is used in the hydrocarbons industry, its extremely potent smell, even at very low concentrations. Because of this smell the chmical is added to natural gas supplies, which are colourless and odourless, but potentially harmful. The addition of a highly unpleasant smelling compound to this gas enables Humans to detect gas leaks quickly, and makes them highly likely to act upon this smell, however this does mean that people also tend to interpret spills of even very small amounts of methanthiol as major gas leaks, and take appropriate seeming action.
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