Ask Texas oil workers and you'll hear it from them: hydrogen sulfide (H2S) is the bogeyman in drilling. More than just offensive to the nostrils with its rotten-egg odor, hydrogen sulfide is extremely toxic, highly flammable, and very corrosive to metal. Sadly, it also causes permanent debilitation and fatalities in the oilfields every year.
What is it?
Hydrogen Sulfide (H2S) is an extremely toxic gas produced naturally from decaying biomass. Though H2S irritates the throat and eyes, its giveaway quality is its smell: a rank, rotten-egg odor that has earned this gas several nasty nicknames including "sewer gas" and "stink damp."
In January of 2018, a surge of gas ignited and caused an oilfield fire that killed five men on a drilling rig near Quinton, Oklahoma. A following lawsuit alleged the deadly blowout was preventable: Red Mountain Energy, the owner and operator of the well, used a lighter drilling mud than recommended by experts. Why the cheaper mud? It was chosen to impress investors with cut costs.
You - standing in fire-retardant overalls with steel-toed boots, gloves, eye protection, a hard hat, and a shovel - listen carefully on your first day as the manager explains your job and watch as some seasoned guys demonstrate: is that training? Not by authoritative standards.
Welcome to the rig floor, where more oilfield accidents happen than any other location on the drilling rig. Roughnecks on the rig floor are some of the most prone to injury, positioned next to the moving drillstring, using heavy tongs and fast-moving spinning chains, heaving the slips, and working around the rotary table. Here are some of the major hazards roughnecks and floorhands face when on the rig floor.
Danger in the oilfields doesn't start when the drillbit hits the dirt. Hazards arrive on the well pad as soon as the set-up crews do.
Oil and gas operations have recently revved up the Texas economy and created new jobs, including thousands of jobs in oilfield trucking. With peak salaries ranging from $70k-$110k a year, many are enticed to join the industry. However, oilfield trucking is not normal trucking, and truck drivers sometimes end up with a wilder ride than they expected.
Beneath the crisscrossing latticework of an oil derrick, the threat of catastrophic well failure always looms. Perhaps the most feared of all oilfield accidents is the unanticipated well blowout, which can have catastrophic, deadly consequences.
On a 100-degree Texas afternoon, oilfield workers prepare a derrick for normal drilling operation. Few average people consider that they are digging up matter that could someday become neon nail polish, refined jet fuel, or a plastic storage bin. Even fewer average people consider what oilfield workers face when an oilfield accident happens on the rig, resulting in catastrophic injury or even wrongful death.
In the early 1900s, miners carried canary birds into the mines with them as poison testers. At the time, no available instruments could detect carbon monoxide (CO) - a lethal, tasteless, odorless, invisible, flammable gas. However, if the canary stopped singing or perished from CO exposure, miners knew to evacuate. Canaries have since become ingrained in mining culture, even though more sophisticated technology has replaced them as CO detectors. Unfortunately, the same threat of CO in the workplace remains.