Natural gas odor halts PG&E inspections in San Bruno neighborhood 

A strong smell of gas forced PG&E crews to halt excavations around a natural gas transmission pipeline in San Bruno on Saturday, a spokesman said Sunday.

Crews had excavated an 8-foot portion of an abandoned pipeline --located near the intersection of Glenview and Claremont drives--when residents complained of a strong smell of gas spreading through the neighborhood, PG&E spokesman Andrew Souvall said.

The pipeline, which PG&E decommissioned in 1956, had been part of the same natural gas transmission system as Line 132, the pipeline that exploded Sept. 9 in the Crestmoor neighborhood, which killed eight people and destroyed 38 homes, Souvall said.

Field experts quickly determined that the odor released Saturday was not natural gas, but a chemical called mercaptan, an odorant added to natural gas in order to make it more detectable.

"When we unsealed the pipe, the mercaptan was released into the air," Souvall said. "There was no gas in the line."

PG&E halted all work on the pipeline until utility officials could meet with residents to provide more information about the odorant, Souvall said.

The utility last week was ordered to inspect about 250 feet of the abandoned pipeline by the California Public Utilities Commission, Souvall said.
      
The project is likely to restart by midweek, he said.

CPUC officials were not available to comment on Sunday.

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