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Migration Behavior

Due to its physical properties, natural gas has a distinct migration behavior. With a specific gravity of .69, natural gas is lighter than air, which means it will naturally tend to rise. Natural gas follows the path of least resistance and will travel upward through any available space, such as ducts, stairwells, cracks in the road or even soft ground.

When underground or in enclosed spaces, natural gas can move laterally or migrate upward. It will travel as far as it can under roadways and sidewalks, along natural gas pipes and other utility lines, or along a ceiling until it finds a way up. This migration behavior explains how natural gas can accumulate in buildings that are some distance away from the original leak site.

Even after the gas supply at an incident site has been shut off, be alert for gas accumulation and possible reignition nearby. Also, keep in mind that gas could possibly be leaking before a valve, so shutting off the valve may not mitigate the problem. Important: Any valve owned by the utility should only be shut off by trained utility personnel.