Oil Field Injury From Hydrogen Sulfide Exposure

In the Bakken gas and oil fields, hydrogen sulfide is a naturally occurring hazard with significant potential for causing oil field injury. Both natural gas and petroleum contain hydrogen sulfide gas. When oil or natural gas has a high percentage of hydrogen peroxide, the industry considers it sour gas; natural gas can contain up to 28% hydrogen sulfide. Since 15 to 20% of US natural gas may contain hydrogen sulfide, the potential for hydrogen sulfide gas emissions at the work site is significant.

At work sites such as in the Bakken, hydrogen sulfide gas release occurs in various way including sour gas well blowouts, extinguished flares, line releases, sour gas accumulation in low-lying areas, gas venting and leaking from well head equipment, compressors and idle or abandoned wells

Hydrogen sulfide exposure is among the top causes of sudden death in the workplace. Immediate collapse and unconsciousness can occur when a worker inhales hydrogen sulfide concentrations greater than 500 parts per million. Unconsciousness and death have resulted in situations where there was prolonged hydrogen gas exposure at 50 parts per million concentrations. Other serious health concerns associated with hydrogen sulfide exposure include central nervous system neurotoxicity, pulmonary edema, and cardiovascular and gastrointestinal toxicity.

In gas and oil field drilling sites, such as the Bakken, short-term exposure at a 2 ppm level may cause bronchial obstruction. In a study concerning hydrogen sulfide in the workplace, researchers found that workers exposed to 6.4 ppm experienced eye pain.

Although more than thirty states, including North Dakota, independently regulate hydrogen sulfide levels to protect the public, there is no federal ambient air quality standard for hydrogen sulfide in the US. Furthermore, the Clean Air Act has no requirement for protective measures such as scrubbing or flaring in the oil and gas industry .

Hydrogen sulfide emissions are common at oil and gas extraction sites including the Bakken. If you have incurred a work injury from hydrogen sulfide exposure, please contact us.