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Archive for the 'H2S' Category

The Development and History of H2S Gas Safety in Alberta

In Alberta, the petroleum industry has had  a long and infamous history of  working around hydrogen sulfide gas.  Serious injury, disabilities, knockdowns and fatalities  created a public relations nightmare, motivating the Oil and Gas industry, as a whole,  to set industry standards  for workers  who may be  exposed to hydrogen sulfide  In the early days, a newspaper article publicized that the drilling companies were inviting laborers to enter “the Killing Fields”.
Long gone are the days when there was no legal impact from uncontrolled drilling and production of natural gas, crude oil and petroleum products. that might release H2S.  Workers were untrained, with no safe work procedures, and could be exposed to H2S .  In addition, the public could be exposed during a gas release and blowouts.  Hydrogen sulphide also negatively affected the environment, due to air pollution, from flaring and gas releases during production activities. Uncontrolled blowouts were common, and farmers and nearby towns were exposed to H2S through air pollution, sour spills and hydrogen sulphide entering into underground water wells.
The famous Lodgepole incident in Alberta , where several blowouts knocked down workers and released this poisonous, explosive and corrosive gas into the air, created bad publicity for Oil companies. Over time, pressure was placed on the Petroleum industry to set a standard for safety, to protect their workers, the public and the environment in Western Canada.  Safety organizations, such as Petroleum Industry Training Service, were formed to establish these standards.  After a number of mergers, the organizations changed names, but the program Enform H2S Alive was formulated, to set an entry level training program for workers who could be exposed to this toxic gas with few obvious physical properties.
 This naturally occurring product forms in the province from natural gas reservoirs, hot springs, volcanic gases and crude petroleum.   H2S, also known as stink damp and sewer gas,  can accumulate in sewers, sewage treatment plants or  storage pits in the tanning  and rendering plants. . As a province with large amounts of sulphur
, Hydrogen Sulfide is created naturally by decaying organic matter  which could be  released from  sulphur hot springs, sewage sludge,  and   liquid manure  in farming. ,  It is formed when Sulfur is removed from refining petroleum products and is a by-product of paper in pulp mills.
H2s is often present as a component of untreated intermediate gas and liquid streams that comes from Oil Refineries in the province.
Underground pockets of H2S could be encountered by miners, Well drillers, and workers in tunneling activities. Hydrogen sulphide is also a raw material used  During the manufacturing process.  This could create mercaptans (known as thiols), inorganic sulphides, and  sulphuric acid  that could form H2S.

A common activity in Alberta was to  remove sulphur from petroleum products at oil refineries.  The process units that remove sulphur from the petroleum  are  transported to plants where it is made into sulphuric acids or sulphur.

At oil refineries, Hydrogen Sulfide is produced in process units that remove sulfur from petroleum. It is then transported to a process unit where it is made into Sulfur or Sulfuric acid.
The Enform H2S Alive program  introduces students to the Physical properties of Hydrogen Sulfide.   It  is a colorless, corrosive and very toxic gas with an offensive odor which smells like rotten egg. . It is also highly flammable and can explode when mixed with the correct proportion of air.
 It is a respiratory inhibitor. which affects a persons ability to use their “common sense” or flight/fright response when faced with emergencies. Hydrogen Sulfide’s rotton egg smell  is readily detectable at low concentrations. but , high concentrations can deaden  ones smell by overloading their olfactory senses. When no odor can be perceived, there is no obvious warning to people unless they carry gas monitors to detect its presence.
Its Vapor Density is 1.9, making it slightly heavier than air. But it is typically mixed with other products, such as Methane, that is lighter than air.  When mixed with other gases, it can be released when depressurized.  It may rise with the other materials and stay suspended in air for some time, before settling to low spots… The Enform H2S Alive program notes that workers should be particularly careful around confined spaces where there is no ventilation and the gas can be trapped.
It is soluble in fluids such as produced water, surfactants, gels, inverts, waste materials, sumps and fluid in pits.  Merely by agitating it, depressurizing or heating these materials, H2S can rise and knockdown workers who are in the line of fire.
Hydrogen sulphide gas, at low concentrations, can be slightly irritating to mucous membranes. At higher levels, it can cause pulmonary edema, conjunctivitis of the eyes, and brain damage.
  • Skin contact from liquid forms of H2S can create frostbite, often called “blue skin” .
  • rapid unconsciousness , known as knockdown  can results  from inhalation of the gas. This often leads to falls that can seriously injure the worker.  One reason for educating workers is the observation that other workers in the area panic and run towards the victim to assist them. This often results in a stack of dead workers, making it more difficult to rescue the group.
In Alberta, the 2009 Occupational Health and Safety Act is the legislation to protect workers from chemical exposure.  As of 2009, the 8 hour OEL (Occupational Exposure Limit) is 10 ppm, the Short term exposure is none and the Ceiling is 15 ppm.  Many companies have set higher standards for their safety by aiming for no exposure.  Some employers set their gas monitors to lower limits, such as 5 ppm for the 8 hour day exposure and 10ppm for the ceiling, to have a Standard Operating procedure that is more conservative than the law.
The Occupational Health and Safety Codes have many related sections that apply to H2S.  For example, Part 2 of the Codes notes that employers have to conduct a hazard assessment of the workplace, eliminate or substitute the gas where they can, or control it by engineering, administrative and personal protective equipment strategies.  Engineering out the gas hazard might include lockouts, tagouts, inert, ventilate, blank and blind and other  barriers to H2S.   Administrative controls include implementing training, rules, standards, signage, work permits, use of gas monitors  and procedures that recognize and avoid the gas.  Personal protective equipment to be worn around H2S would be self contained or supplied air breathing apparatus,and wearing flame resistant coveralls  around this toxic and flammable gas.
Given that this gas has few warning properties, it is essential that any worker that could be exposed obtain proper training and the correct resources to protect themselves from this deadly gas.

A Respiratory Protection Program for H2S Gas

A respiratory protection program  for Hydrogen Sulphide gas should be added to safety codes of practice for companies whose employees could be exposed to this toxic gas.  This should comply with CSA and NIOSH standards for respirators.

In Alberta, H2S, commonly known as Sour Gas, can naturally occur in petroleum reservoirs.  As a result of many deaths in the past from lack of personal protective equipment, it was discovered that a filtered cartridge or half mask respirator was inadequate protection from this poisonous gas.

Since H2S is considered an IDLH gas (Immediately Dangerous to Life and Health), the respiratory protection standard requires a positive pressure style mask.  For Self Contained breathing apparatus, there must be a minimum volume of 30 minutes of respirable breathing air.

Self Contained is the preferred style for workers who need independence of movement, want mobility to reach further areas or could conduct rescues.  The SCBAs have a cylinder, mask with a nose cup and positive pressure, harness and regulator. Positive benefits are mobility and no trip hazards when moving around. Negative aspects are that air time is limited, and they are bulky and heavy.

Supplied Air Breathing Apparatus (SABA) is the chosen system for longer term work and is lighter weight and less bulky. The advantage of this system is that workers entering confined spaces are able to access the space easier, have  longer term air supplies and can work as a team off an air cascade system. Disadvantages are that there is limited mobility, trip hazards, air that is not humidified and have to escape by disconnecting and using an egress cylinder.  This escape bottle is typically limited to 5 to 15 minutes and may not have an audible alarm to warn the worker that the air is running low.

A proper respiratory protection program should include the following key points:

1. Respirator selection and use .

2. Fit testing for tight-fitting respirators.This can be qualitative, quantitative or both.

3. Medical evaluation as some people have asthma or claustrophobia.

4. Various Procedures for a number of predictable  emergencies such as blow outs or rescues.

5. Preventative Maintenance procedures and a sanitary area for storage.

6. Supplied air respirators and operation of the cascade system.

7.  Routine and emergency situations procedures and training and drills.

8. Regular practice  care and maintenance of the respirator selected and donning and doffing.

9. Evaluating the effectiveness of the respiratory protection program and a schedule to reevaluate it .

10. Locations for SABAs and SCBAs at the worksite.

A respiratory protection program can help with the selection, fit, use, and maintenance of your breathing apparatus and will assist you in meeting the legislation and manufacturers specifications for H2S environments

Hydrogen Sulfide

In the city of Portage La Prairie in April of 1969, two CUPE members and a city official went to the sewage lagoons to check a valve on a feeder line. One member of the crew entered the valve chamber and collapsed. A second member went in to rescue him and also collapsed. The third member summoned help. By the time the fire department arrived both workers were dead. Air samples taken at the time showed hydrogen sulfide levels in excess of the measuring instrument’s upper limits.


There have been numerous workers killed through exposure to this gas in many different occupational settings. Hydrogen sulfide is a poisonous gas and the leading cause of death through gas inhalation in the workplace. One whiff of a sufficiently high concentration can cause death.


What is Hydrogen sulfide?

Hydrogen sulfide (H2S) is a colourless gas which at lower concentrations has a distinctive rotten-egg odour. Most exposure to it occurs by inhalation. Hydrogen sulfide is generated as a by-product in many industrial processes or by the decomposition of organic (previously living) matter. It is slightly heavier than air and is therefore especially dangerous in low-lying areas and confined or enclosed workspaces. At high temperatures (260 degrees Celsius, 500 degrees Fahrenheit) hydrogen sulfide reacts explosively. READ MORE

H2S Alive Edition 7 Enform

Allstar Enviro Safety has been facilitating the H2S Alive Program for over 2 decades in Alberta.


The development of this program was developed by petroleum industry Training Service or PITS as a means of education oil and gas personnel to the dangers of hydrogen sulphide gas. The toxic, flammable, explosive and corrosive gas was responsible for many injuries, knockdowns and deaths.


During the early years of petroleum exploration in Western Canada, many deaths were considered hear attacks. Equipment was breaking down from the corrosive effects of H2S and the Public was regularly exposed to this environmental pollutant that was released from kicks and blow outs.


Pressure from public concern and several blowouts in the Lodgepole area of Alberta helped stakeholders to collect essential and often, unknown information about the health hazards to both the public, environment, materials, equipment and workers alike.


In 1988, PITS released the first edition of the H2S Alive training program. In 2013, the latest edition was released which approaches this subject with a more proactive perspective. This is in comparison to the reactive training of the past, where H2S would be released and the 7 step initial response was the emphasis. To be proactive, the use of a Hazard Assessment, Risk assessment and Control was added.


New workers who are not aware of conducting a field Level hazard assessment or how to reduce hazards by developing a hierarchy of controls are better educated in the process after completion of the program. More emphasis on electronic monitoring and the removal of CPR from the program are several updates to Edition 7.


It is still a 6 – 8 hour program. Upon successful completion of the theory and physical skills and writing a closed book exam, a 3 month temporary ticket is awarded. The mailing of permanent 3 year tickets has been expedited with a faster mailout system directly to the student or their employer after certification.


Enroll today with Allstar Enviro Safety, your safety training pros!

H2S knockdown encounter

I am a client of Allstar Enviro Safety. I told the instructor about my friend who was working in the Oil Sands as a Foreman Scaffolder. Two of his apprentices passed out due to exposure to H2S gas. Without getting respiratory protection, the foreman went to the aid of his fellow workers. Little did he know that they had already passed out from the Hydrogen sulphide exposure. He dragged these men to safety and passed out afterwards.


The foreman spend a lengthy time in the hospital getting better but was told by the physician that he may have taken 10-15 years off his life due to the H2S exposure!


Ryan Verboom Story told July 2014

Classroom Safety Courses – Training That Can Save Lives

Attending classroom safety courses is perhaps the best, most efficient way to learn about the possible hazards that may arise in both professional and private environments. Each type of environment comes with its own risk sources, and learning how to tackle these problems gives more confidence to the people who spend time in that particular environment, while also making the place safer.

Safety in general, both work safety and the safety of our home is largely determined by our awareness of the possible hazards. Both types of environments pose numerous risks that can be efficiently avoided, and attending safety courses is the best way to learn about these hazards and about the different measures you can implement to avoid them.

In what follows, we would like to present some of the major types of safety classes so that you can see how useful and beneficial they are indeed.

Fall Protection

Falls and slips are among the most frequently cited causes of home accidents and work-related injuries. The good news is that the majority of falls can be prevented with the help of adequate measures. There are specific fall protection courses designed for individuals, while other classes are industry-oriented, but both types of courses are short and efficient.

Usually only 6-8 hours long, these courses teach the theory of these accidents and they also involve a lot of interactive exercises that teach class members about the physics of slips and falls, presentations about fall protection measures as well as exercises about harness systems.

First Aid

First aid training can make your home and your workplace a safer place. Many workplaces provide basic first aid training to their employees, but the higher the level of first training, the better the chance you can provide adequate help in case someone gets injured around you. However, the workplace is not the only place where adequate first aid can save lives. Natural disasters are becoming more and more frequent nowadays, and preparing to handle such situations increases the chances for survival for those around you by measures.

Exposure to Chemicals

Developing awareness about the physical properties of chemicals like H2S is extremely important for the workers exposed to these substances. The ability to recognize, to evaluate and to control such exposure and the related hazards can be vital in many different circumstances. The courses offered in the domain include basic-level classes that involve no physical training and more advanced courses that incorporate physical training and theory as well.

Confined Spaces

Restricted spaces also pose numerous hazards. Assessing these hazards before one enters such a space is essential for being able to prevent accidents caused by difficulties while entering or leaving confined spaces as well as to take the right measures if the place you need to enter is not only small, but it also poses risks arising from the exposure to toxic or dangerous substances.

If you are looking for a safety course to train you in any of the above topics and more, feel free to check out The website offers a lot of useful information about safety-related issues and the training courses offered vary not only in topics, but in training level and intensity as well, allowing both companies and individuals to find what they are looking for.

History of Well Blow-Outs in Alberta and H2S Alive

The history of well blow-out in Alberta is interesting reading, and is the reason for the current H2S Alive Edition 7 training course, as this was the response by industry to these tragedies.

In the 1920s it was a common practice of oil well drilling to burn unwanted gas in a flare pit. Turner Valley is SW of  Calgary and was nicknamed Hells Half Acre. This deposit contained sour gas, and H2S was emitted after separating the liquid hydrocarbons into the atmosphere through tall smoke stacks. The area smelled like rotten eggs.
This disgusting smell was also toxic, even in trace quantities… but it smelled like money to the oil barons of the time.
Canada,’s first blowout was in Ontario in 1862 and showed that big discoveries of oil and gas often came with terrible accidents and exposures to the public.
The Alberta petroleum industry is marked with blowouts that leaked oil and gas through derricks in the drilling process as far back as 1948.  40 kilometers southwest of downtown Edmonton, a geyser of oil soared, propelling high pressures columns of petroleum crude oil. This tossed pieces of machinery into the air and leaked pollutants into the atmosphere, blanketing farmer’s property.  The well which was owned by Atlantic Oil Company, spilled more than a million barrels of oil.  Workers were hired to snuff out fires under boilers that drove the drilling rigs steam-powered engines.  It took 6 months to plug the well. The blowout vented over 10 billion cubic feet of gas into the atmosphere. The blowout provided a lesson in the importance of emergency planning, when the crude caught fire and sent enormous columns of smoke into Southern Edmonton.
Since this time, blowout preventers and safety equipment are tested rigorously during drilling operations.
The public was very upset with the oil companies who choose production over their safety concerns. This caused corporate shares to plummet and drilling bans. There was a rush to create new safety protocols to match the frenzy of drilling in Alberta.  The petroleum and natural gas conservation board began in late 1938 to minimize excessive flaring.  The name changed over time to ERCB, EUB  and then to the current AER – Alberta Energy Regulators.
Our current stricter sour gas drilling regulations where the result of the infamous Lodgepole incident in 1982 near Drayton valley. This was the location of the worst sour gas blowout in Canada     This blowout killed 3 well control specialists and was burning out of control for two months. A comprehensive survey and review of sour gas drilling procedures was initiated. As a result, a national suite of standards on emergency response created new regulations and improvements.
Atlantic Number 3 produced another blowout in Alberta that cased a 3 day fire and energized the push to regulate drilling procedures. Stricter industry operating guidelines were passed at that time. Since 2000, the Board has closed 1264 facilities that didn’t meet proper regulatory requirements.
When gas or oil, loaded with Hydrogen Sulphide Gas, is onsite while drilling, the regulations are strict.  Companies must stop the drilling process to do safety checks prior to drilling into sour zones that are on top of oil formations which likely contain deadly H2S. A field inspector might conduct a thorough rig inspection and see that a test of the shutdown procedures in case of emergency is undertaken.
Not only do the employees need to be able to handle a blowout properly, they are required to obtain a series of safety tickets, such as H2S Alive. There are numerous penalties for lacking proper credentials, such as shutting down a rig.
Allstar Enviro Safety runs weekly classes on hydrogen sulphide gas safety for workers. This 6 – 8 hour program was designed by ENFORM to create a consistent training format for people in the petroleum and related industries that could be exposed to H2S gas.
 This course is the result of safety standards that were came as the result of H2S Releases in Alberta in its history of drilling incidents. While safety training and emergency response procedures are common practice today, Alberta’s history of worker and public protection was very different decades ago.
Besides public protection and avoidance of pollution, the other benefit of H2S Alive training include proper education for our workers who have the right to avoid the toxic, flammable, explosive and corrosive effects of this dangerous nerve gas!

How to Seek Employment in Alberta’s Lucrative Petroleum and Construction Job Market

One of the most frequent questions I am asked as a Safety Consultant is:
“How can I get Employment in  Alberta’s lucrative job market” ?
Alberta’s booming economy offers great prospects for career opportunities,
particularly in the Petroleum and Construction trades in the next years.
With the highest economic growth of all the provinces, there are 275,000 direct and
indirect  oil and gas jobs to be filled.
When I talk to employers who book safety courses for their staff and contractors they are looking to hire:
a) Tradespeople, such as Carpenters, Heavy Equipment Operators, Mechanics,
     Truck drivers, Electricians,  Instrumentation technologists,  scaffolders, construction laborers. READ MORE

Important Facts about H2S Gas

Hydrogen sulphide gas is a current hazard in the Oil and Gas Industry. It is also prevalent in sewers, landfills, barges, pig farms, muskegs, mines and pulp and paper mills

Alberta is one of the most dangerous places in the world for H2S. Other areas where H2S is common include Europe, the Middle East and also any areas where volcanic activity may produce H2S.

This gas is a colorless chemical that is difficult to pick up with your own senses. Vapor density is heavier than air, but it can rise when mixed with a lighter than air gas stream. It will flow with the other products when agitated, depressurized or heated, and eventually settle into low spots. Be particularly careful in confined spaces and non ventilated areas such as pits, trenches, under the substructure, berms and basements.

We feature the 7th edition of the Enform certified course.  5 sections include  Physical properties, scales and probable locations, Hazard assessment and scenarios, Respiratory protective equipment including SCBA or SABA, Gas monitoring and sampling and Rescues.  You can learn more about the hazards of H2S gas at

Oil and Gas Specialists Not Aware of New H2S Exposure Limitations According to Survey

The majority of the oil and gas market specialists who took a study carried out by  the American Society of Safety Engineers showed they were not knowledgeable about brand-new hydrogen sulfide (H2S) exposure limitations suggested by the ACGIH. The gas detection producer launched the outcomes of their survey.
In addition, the study revealed that 76 percent of these experts felt there is no urgency to embrace the brand-new requirements, and their business make use of a range of alarm system levels, just 24 percent have actually adjusted their H2S restrictions within the last 3 years. Just 34 percent expect adjusting their existing H2S restrictions in the near future,” according to the business’s information release.

To learn more about H2S restrictions get certified at