A nose for gas: Tolerating nasty niffs to ensure gas has the right aroma across Cadent’s networks

working for us

Name: Matt Pitts
Job Title: Integrity Engineer
Job Description: Management of Gas Quality and Measurement systems, on our high pressure gas systems and Biomethane sites. This includes rhinology and local gas treatment systems (Odorisation).
Sum up what you and your team do:
I provide the training and tools for Cadent’s team of regional rhinologists across its five networks.
Natural gas has no smell to it, therefore to ensure people’s safety odorants are added to Natural Gas so as to alert members of the public to leaks of gas. The gas must be treated with a suitable stenching agent so as to ensure it has a distinctive and characteristic odour.
This is something that’s stipulated by the Gas Safety Management Regulations (GS(M)R), regulation 8 to be precise.
A substance known as Mercaptan, which both occurs naturally and as a by-product of an industrial process, is used.  It’s smelly enough and distinctive enough for the majority of people to be able to smell it, notice it and take action, although around 1% of people can’t smell mercaptan.
In its pure form mercaptan is toxic but it is safe to use in the extremely small concentrations the gas industry uses. It is also extremely effective. One drop of mercaptan from a pipet can be smelt 18 miles away! Pure mercaptan is also not effective as 100 per cent mercaptan is above the human nasal smelling range.
Odour is added locally at offtakes and biomethane sites, which requires gas distribution company’s such as Cadent to have a method of assessing the odour within the network. Cadent use rhinology for this process.
It’s our rhinologists job to check and confirm that the gas has been odorised to the correct level, which requires smelling the gas to ensure it smells as expected.
That might sound like a simple job but it’s actually a really skilled task.  
There are sample points associated with each injection point. These are all tested monthly and are known as primary points. Cadent also have a number of sample points across each network which are each tested over a quarterly period, and these are known as consumer points.
To actually smell the gas our rhinologists use a device known as an odorimeter.
We also need to ensure that our rhinologists noses are calibrated on a regular basis. In each network there is a “Lead Rhinologist” who is responsible for ensuring that the “Field Rhinologists” undertake regular calibration sessions at a local olfactory calibration facility (LOCF) at a depot within the network. The Lead Rhinologists undergo a rigorous annual calibration at a test facility operated by Cadent’s approved service provider. 
My role is to oversee this process and also ensure that the rhinology data is recorded and available to the HSE (Health and Safety Executive).
What experience do you need for to be a rhinologist for Cadent?
Any person wishing to take on a role within rhinology should always undergo a preliminary test at a LOCF to ascertain if they are able to recognise the differences in odour intensity, and to eliminate anosmia  (the loss of the sense of smell) prior to undertaking the full assessment.
How about for your role managing the team?
I have been with the business for over 29-years, and I have been a rhinologist since 1999. During my time operations, I was the lead rhinologist in East Midlands, until I moved into Network Integrity and my current role managing the team in 2016.
Would you recommend the job to others?
Yes,  I’ve been doing this job for over 20 years and I’m still here! If you have a good sense of smell and can tolerate having to deal with unpleasant smells, it can be a fascinating job.


Cadent is the UK’s largest gas distribution network with a 200-year legacy.  We are in a unique position to build on strong foundations whilst encouraging the curiosity to think differently and the courage to embrace change.  Day to day we continue to operate, maintain and innovate the UK’s largest gas network, transporting gas safely and protecting people in an emergency.   Our skilled engineers and specialists remain committed to the communities we serve, working day and night to ensure gas reaches 11 million homes from Cumbria to North London and the Welsh Borders to East Anglia, to keep your energy flowing. 

Future of Gas: Here at Cadent we support the Government’s plans to reach Net Zero by 2050. That means we’re backing the introduction of hydrogen as a low carbon alternative to natural gas for the future. We know people love the controllability of gas and, with our network already in place, it makes sense to switch to the lower carbon alternative offered by hydrogen, which we believe can keep homes and businesses warm for generations to come.

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