When it comes to oil and gas news, it's hard
to beat 'fracking' for a more buzz-worthy topic. Add 'hydrogen sulfide gas' to
the headline, though, and and expect eyebrows to rise.
A Sunday report in the Glenwood Springs Post Independent
presented evidence the toxic gas, which can cause severe respiratory distress
and death, has been documented in various concentrations at oil and gas
drilling sites in Colorado.
Exposure to the gas at low concentrations can cause
headache, dizziness, and upset stomach. At higher concentrations, gas
inhalation triggers unconsciousness and death through respiratory paralysis.
study titled 'Hydrogen Sulfide, Oil and Gas, and People's Health,' notes
hydrogen sulfide develops naturally in conjunction with crude oil and natural
gas, with 15 to 25 percent of U.S. gas wells likely 'soured.'
Established processes for removing the gas in
processing facilities have been demonstrated effective, though homeowners near
wells report feeling ill. Additionally, several workers have also grown ill after documented
The reports have triggered Global Community
Monitor to launch the 'Bucket Brigade' project, a community-led air monitoring
program. Residents who live near oil and gas operations in Colorado and New
Mexico gather air samples and submit them for lab analysis. A report
published in July tested nine of the samples and found 22 toxic chemicals,
including four carcinogens at levels ranging from 3 to 3,000 times higher than
established safety limits.
by the Bucket Brigade contained hydrogen sulfide gas at levels 185 times
higher than a threshold set by the EPA as posing long-term health risks to
The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission is tasked
with investigating reports of hydrogen sulfide gas. Officials are expected to
report their findings Monday in Denver.
Watch a KREX report on hydrogen sulfide at oil and gas