Why Didn't We Smell Propane Gas before the House Exploded?

The reason you and your family did not smell propane gas before the house exploded was most likely because of one or both of the following:

  • the propane was under-odorized;
  • there was “odor fade.”

The odorant usually used in propane gas is ethyl mercaptan, which smells like rotten eggs. “Odor fade” (no more rotten egg smell) happens when there is either:

  1. oxidation of ethyl mercaptan caused by iron oxide in a storage tank; or
  2. absorption into the lining of the tank.

The oxidation and absorption is faster with a new tank, and slows down after several fillings. Because of the risk of odorant fade, the following must be done:

  • When a tank is filled, particularly a new tank, it must be filled to about 80%;
  • The propane must not be allowed to sit unused.

If you loved one was injured or killed in a propane explosion, contact attorneys Fred Pritzker and Eric Hageman using the form below.

We are not paid unless you win. Submitting this form does not create an attorney-client relationship.

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$10 Million for Man Who Could Not Smell Propane Leak

Our law firm recently won $10 million for a man who did not smell a propane leak before a house exploded.  Our client was severely burned in the explosion, with third-degree burns on about 60% of his body.

When attorneys Fred Pritzker and Eric Hageman got the case, they found that the new tank had only been filled to 30% (instead of 80%) and that the propane was allowed to sit unused, increasing the risk of odorant fade. Fred and Eric argued that their client could not smell the LP gas around him as he struck a match. Although the specific cause of the propane leak was not found, they found evidence that the gas company was responsible for the explosion and our client’s injuries and sued the propane gas company that had under-filled the tank.

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Questions That Need Answers

The negligence of a gas company can lead to severe injuries and wrongful death. When this happens, it is important to vigorously pursue the truth.

  • Was the correct amount of ethyl mercaptan added to the LP gas?
  • How was the LP transported and stored prior to being used to fill the tank that exploded?
  • What kind of tank was it and how old was it?
  • Was the tank examined to for problems that could lead to a leak?
  • How was the tank filled?
  • How much propane was put into the tank?
  • How much training did the technician who filled the tank have?
  • How long had it been since the last filling?
  • Were the valves working correctly?
  • Was the tank serviced enough and carefully?
  • At any time did someone call the company about a strange odor?

These are just a few of the multitude of questions that need answers when someone is critically burned in a house explosion.

You can use our free consultation form to contact our propane explosion lawyers about a lawsuit for personal injury or wrongful death.

Can I Sue for a House Explosion?

What is Odor Fade?

Because propane, liquid petroleum (LP) gas, in its natural state is odorless and undetectable, unodorized LP presents an exceptionally high explosion risk in the event of a leak. To combat this risk, a “stench gas” (ethyl mercaptan) with an instantly-recognizable rotten-egg-like odor is added to LP as an odorant.

Maintaining odorant in LP is crucial, so there are basic steps which must taken to ensure that odor fade does not occur. In particular, odor fade a known risk in tanks which are new or are not in continuous use. In such situations, ethyl mercaptan in the LP can bind to the interior surface of the tank, decreasing the amount of odorant. If enough odorant is absorbed by the tank surface, the gas again becomes odorless. This is what we alleged happened in this case.

A new tank was delivered to a residence and then allegedly filled to only 30% of capacity. At some point, LP escaped, although the source of the leak has never been determined. By the time it leaked, the gas’s lack of odorant made it undetectable and deprived all those in its vicinity of any warning of its presence. When our client lit a match, he had no idea of the danger he faced due to the presence of odorless LP. As a result, the gas ignited, causing the blast.

Fred Pritzker

Propane is odorless and must, by law, be odorized so that people will be able to detect a gas leak by smell. We recently obtained a $10 million settlement for a client in case where there was odor fade.

Are There Steps That Should be Taken to Prevent Odor Fade?

As any reasonable propane company knows, odor fade is a common risk in new tanks, but two primary precautions can greatly reduce that risk:

  1. purging the tank (which removes moisture); and
  2. filling the tank to the maximum level at the first fill.

Industry-standard educational courses require employers to make it abundantly clear that odor fade presents a substantial risk to consumers, which personnel must actively work to prevent.

National Fire Prevention Association publication NFPA 58, the liquefied petroleum gas code, sets the codes, guidelines, standards, and practices applicable to the industry. Many states have statutorily adopted NFPA 58, meaning it is the law in those states. Among other things, NFPA 58 requires that “persons who transfer liquid LP-Gas shall be trained in proper handling and operating procedures.” The industry standard is the National Propane Gas Association’s Certified Employee Training Program (CETP).

CETP training begins with the most essential module: Basic Principles and Practices. Nor surprisingly, odor fade is a prominent part of the basic training. In fact, the very first chapter of the first CETP training unit includes odor fade prevention training. And at the bottom of one of the first pages is “Note: It is important to guard against odorant fade in new containers.”

Results

$45

Million

We obtained this settlement for a person with severe injuries.

$45

Million

Our clients were injured by an over-the-counter medication.

$10

Million

Our client was burned and suffered a TBI in a gas explosion.

$7.5

Million

We won this verdict for a child with kidney damage from E. coli.

 

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We are not paid unless you win. Submitting this form does not create an attorney-client relationship.