Definition - What does Mercaptan mean?
Mercaptan, also known as thiol, is a harmless gas with a very pungent odor that smells like rancid dirty socks, garlic or rotten cabbage. Mercaptan is an organosulfur compound with formula RSH, where R represents alkene, alkane or any other carbon atoms and SH represents the sulfhydryl group, which is also known as the thiol group. Due to the strong stinking smell, Mercaptans are added to natural gas to make the detection easy; therefore, the smell of natural gas is just thiols added to it.
Petropedia explains Mercaptan
Mercaptan is an organosulfur gas with a strong pungent odor resembling a decaying cabbage or garlic. Being an organosulfur compound, it has carbon bonded sulfhydryl group, which makes its formulas as RSH. The carbon compound in the Mercaptan can either be alkene, alkane or other atoms which have carbon in them. In the formula RSH, R stands for thiyl radicals, whereas SH refers to the sulfhydryl group.
Mercaptan gas is made from hydrogen, carbon and sulphur, making it very easy to be found in living organisms. The biggest industrial use of Mercaptan is as an odorant added to natural gas. This makes the detection of natural gas fairly easy.