Philly warns of odors wafting from shuttered refinery this week

Crews are removing mercaptan from the site, the odor used to make natural gas leaks smelly.

Philadelphia Energy Solutions refinery in South Philadelphia. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

Philadelphia Energy Solutions refinery in South Philadelphia. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

Philadelphia officials say not to worry if a foul odor that resembles the smell of rotten eggs stems from the Philadelphia Energy Solutions Refinery over the next couple of days.

That smell is mercaptan, a nontoxic chemical added to natural gas (which is odorless) to help warn of a leak. It is the same smell that helps you notice a gas leak in your stove or a basement pipe.

Workers at the shuttered PES refinery are removing mercaptan from the site and say they might release some in the process.

Fire Department officials say if you smell natural gas you think could be from a leak in your house, please still call 911.

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A major explosion and fire at the refinery in June of last year led to bankruptcy and closure.

Work to close the facility continues under Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf’s COVID-19 shutdown order because it is considered life-sustaining and essential critical infrastructure by the Department of Homeland Security. About 120 people are working at the site.

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