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THE POST-SIGNAL / Desiray Seaux
Roderick Bourgeois of Kinder Morgan Pipeline demonstrates the flammability of a six ounce natural gas leak.

Rotarians get fired up about gas safety

Damage Prevention line patroller teaches Rotarians

Roderick Bourgeois, a Crowley native and employee of Kinder Morgan Pipeline, presented a gas safety program to the Crowley Rotarians Tuesday.
Bourgeois is a line patroller charged with damage prevention. He began his 38-year career working offshore and on land for Tennessee Gas Pipeline, which was later purchased by Kinder Morgan Pipeline.
A Crowley High alumni and member of the 1975 LSUE graduating class, Bourgeois later received a B.A. from Nichols University in Thibodeaux.
He explained that natural gas fumes and butane fumes display the same properties.
He then went on to explain different types of gas fume properties and how they affect a fire. However, in the case of a gas leak, all gas will stay trapped in a small space without dissipating until it has been aired out.
Natural gas evaporates lighter than air and is actually clear and scentless. The smell of rotten eggs that is often associated with natural gas is a scent that is added to the gas for consumers to easily be aware of a leak before it becomes deadly.
In the situation of a natural gas leak outside of a home, besides the smell, it is easily located by a 20 foot area of dead grass around the buried gas line leak. The reason that the grass dies is because the natural gas takes out all the oxygen in the vegetation.
Propane gas fumes present different properties than natural gas.
Propane is also clear but does have a slight smell without an additive, it does not evaporate and is heavier than air.
In a short review, natural gas leak fumes rise to the ceiling while propane leak fumes stay on the ground and their residual effects last much longer than natural gas.
Bourgeois then displayed the different properties of each gas/fumes to the group with a controlled educational gas/fire set up.
The set up has been demonstrated at schools, fire houses and various business meetings to educate the public on the importance of gas safety.
Bourgeois then shifted the presentation to pipeline safety. Although, most citizens will not be working as a line patroller professionally; its is critical to call the proper authorities before digging on private land.
Anyone can call 811 and have any pipelines marked on private property for free. It is against the law to dig before you call.
Most gas pipelines were buried in the 1950’s and 1960’s; therefore, as the landscape has changed and laser leveling has been introduced most old gas pipelines are around three feet deep but there is no guarantee and calling before you dig is vital.
The teeth on a backhoe are made of hardened steel while gas pipelines are made from soft steel so that the steel can be rolled into a pipe form. A backhoe’s teeth will puncture a pipeline.
Also, Bourgeois stressed to never dig near an interstate, railroad or major highway as they are often the corridor of government pipe and phone lines. An extra caution must be taken in these circumstances because unlike residential land the marker post is usually not in the location of the line so that terrorism can be avoided.
Pipelines rarely explode unless someone is digging and hit it. Explosions can be deadly.
An outdoor propane tank can be checked for leaks with dish soap and water, bubbles indicate a leak is present. However, CO2 detectors should be placed near the floor at the entry point of gas line into home. As propane fumes do not rise a CO2 detector is more efficient located at the floor level of the home.
In closing, Bourgeois stated that liquid gas does not burn and it is the fumes that burn. And, if you smell natural gas exit the home and call the fire department. They will test the level and may shut off electricity to avoid any sparks that may start a fire, then the house is aired out until safe.

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