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Chemical Safety Board Announces Update to Texas Hydrogen Sulfide Investigation

July 28, 2020
A worker and his wife succumbed to hydrogen sulfide fumes.

Hydrogen sulfide pollution continues to threaten the wellbeing of Texas residents.

Investigators recently spent 10 days in the Permian Basin region studying oil and gas refinement processes that create the toxic byproduct, according to news reports.

The Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board (CSB) recently published an update of an ongoing investigation that occurred on Oct.26, 2019 in which a waterflood station released dangerous amounts of hydrogen sulfide.

The release of the colorless, flammable gas caused two fatalities of a husband and wife on the site operated by Aghorn Operating Inc. Investigators analyzing the incidents determined that a component of a pump inside the waterflood station failed, resulting in the release of water containing hydrogen sulfide.

Following the pump failure at 6:38 p.m.,  a control board within the station triggered an oil level alarm. An on-call Aghorn worker responded to the alarm within five minutes. He drove to the pump house where he was overwhelmed by hydrogen sulfide fumes.

At 9:30 p.m. the employee's wife and two children traveled to the site to check on him. She entered the pump house and also was overcome by the gas.

The CSB determined that first responders arrived minutes after 10:00 p.m. and immediately rescued the children who were safe in the wife's personal vehicle. The worker and his wife were found deceased inside the pump house. The leak was not stopped until the next day.

Upon review of the failed pump, investigators discovered that the component of the pump that most likely led to the release was a piece of equipment referred to as a “plunger.” Although the site had a hydrogen sulfide alarm system, it was found to not be fully functional.

The final report from the independent agency is slated to be released before the end of 2020.

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