Lease Pumper's Handbook Published by the Commission on Marginally Producing Oil and Gas Wells of Oklahoma, First Edition 2003 Written by Leslie V. Langston Table of Contents Introductions A. Cover Sheet Book Title B. Publishing Information First Edition, 2003

The Lease Pumper's Handbook

Published by the Commission on Marginally Producing Oil and Gas Wells of Oklahoma, First Edition 2003 Written by Leslie V. Langston Table of Contents Introductions A. Cover Sheet Book Title B. Publishing Information First Edition, 2003


Written by Leslie V. Langston


Publishing Information. First Edition, 2003. C. Foreword. Rick Chapman, Executive Director (1996-2000) Commission on Marginally Producing Oil and Gas Wells, State of Oklahoma. D. Dedication. John A. Taylor, Chairman (1992-1998) Commission on Marginally Producing Oil And Gas Wells, State of Oklahoma. E. Author’s Introduction. Leslie V. Langston, Author, First Edition F. Commission Introduction. Liz Fajen, Executive Director, Commission on Marginally Producing Oil and Gas Wells, State of Oklahoma.


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3B-1 The Lease Pumper’s Handbook Chapter 3 Safety Section B HYDROGEN SULFIDE AND NATURAL GAS SAFETY B-1. Introduction to Hydrogen Sulfide Gas Prior to the mid-1950's, very little publicity was given to the dangers of pumping leases with high hydrogen sulfide (H2S) gas levels. Then improved drilling rigs were built that could drill to 20,000 feet and deeper. With the deeper wells, higher bottom hole pressures were encountered, and more H2S was present. The natural gas in a few wells contained more than 75% H2S and had a high sulfur content. A few wells in Canada had H2S rates that exceeded 90%. Because hydrogen sulfide causes steel to become very brittle, these wells were plugged. Carbon dioxide reserves were tapped, and the gas was injected into wells for enhanced recovery. But this also causes steel to become very brittle, so producers turned to waterflood injection to push petroleum fluids. However, during this process and during well workover, sulfate-reducing bacteria enter the well and begin generating H2S. Thus, wells that had never produced H2S before exhibited hydrogen sulfide problems. The number of deaths resulting from these gases increased dramatically over a 20-year period. By 1975 regulations were being written to protect the worker from this growing danger. H2S is common throughout the world where oil has been discovered, so the problem is not limited to the United States or Canada. To be able to work wells with high H2S concentration, special additives, such as iron oxides, have been added to drilling muds to absorb hydrogen sulfide. Iron Sponge is one such patented absorber. In earlier times, if a lease pumper died from exposure to hydrogen sulfide, the lease pumper’s survivors were awarded a pension of six months to two years of the deceased’s salary. With growing concern for worker safety and revised laws and regulations, as well as court judgments that may award enormous sums of money when negligence can be proven, companies now have better equipment, training, literature, and exposure considerations. B-2. What Is Hydrogen Sulfide? Hydrogen sulfide is a naturally occurring gas that is produced along with natural gas and crude oil. It can be fatal if breathed. Tanks that contain a deadly amount of this gas are usually marked with a star or some other indication of the presence of hydrogen sulfide. With this warning, the lease pumper may be required to wear a fresh air gas mask when gauging or sampling the crude oil. B-3. Properties of Hydrogen Sulfide. It is important to understand the physical properties of hydrogen sulfide in order to understand why it acts the way it does. Physical properties of H2S are: 3B-2 · A colorless gas with a composition of two parts hydrogen and one part sulfur. · Slightly heavier than air; it seeks lower areas, especially pits and cellars. · Odor of rotten eggs in small doses. Higher concentrations cause paralysis of the olfactory nerve within 60 seconds so that no odor is detected. · Extremely toxic (poisonous). · Explosive in air. · Soluble in water. · Boiling point -75° F. · Melting point -119° F. · Density of liquid 0.790 @ 60° F. · API gravity 47.6. · Burns with a blue flame. · Attacks most metals to form sulfides, which are usually insoluble precipitates. · Dissolves in water to form a weak hydrosulfurous acid. B-4. The Dangers of Breathing H2S. The toxicity levels of H2S are generally given as the number of parts per million (ppm) in air. This means that for a 10 ppm concentration of H2S, there would be ten liters of H2S in a million liters of air. How a given concentration will affect a specific person depends on a number of factors, such as the person’s health and personal susceptibility, how active they are when exposed, air temperature and humidity, and many other factors. The following values are intended as general guidelines only. 1 ppm = 0.0001% (1/10,000 of 1%) Can be smelled. 10 ppm = 0.001% (1/1,000 of 1%) 8-hour exposure permitted. 100 ppm = 0.01% (1/100 of 1%) Numbs smell in 3-15 minutes. May burn eyes and throat. 200 ppm = 0.02% (2/100 of 1%) Numbs smell rapidly and burns eyes and throat. 500 ppm = 0.05% (5/100 of 1%) Causes loss of reasoning and balance. Results in respiratory disturbances in 2- 15 minutes. Requires prompt artificial resuscitation. 700 ppm = 0.07% (7/100 of 1%) Causes loss of consciousness quickly. Breathing will stop and death results immediately if not rescued promptly. 1,000 ppm = 0.10% (1/10 of 1%) Unconsciousness occurs at once. Permanent brain damage may result if not rescued promptly. Monitors are available to measure a person’s exposure to H2S (Figure 1). Figure 1. Hydrogen sulfide exposure meters. (courtesy Mine Safety Equipment Co.) B-5. Safe Working Procedures in Gaseous Areas. When the lease pumper must enter gaseous areas alone, there are definite safeguards to use. The lease pumper should always 3B-3 observe extra safety margins because there is no backup. Safety equipment should be on before entering the area (Figure 2). The lease pumper should wear the equipment until the contaminated area is exited. Figure 2. A warning gate that indicates the presence of H2S and the requirement for breathing apparatus. Safety training programs for working around hydrogen sulfide. Safety training programs are available for working in H2S environments. It is important for lease pumpers to take this training. Formal training will usually result in better understanding than just receiving a pamphlet to read in some spare time. The lease pumper also gains experience practicing with safety equipment, H2S detectors, monitors, exposure recorders, 30-minute backpacks, the 5-minute emergency escape pack, and many situations rarely seen in the field. In addition, trainees visit with others who have had different experiences. When working in a group, someone within the group is required to have had training so that this knowledge is available to the group. When working alone, however, the lease pumper must have had this formal training. Figure 3. The windsock on the site shows the direction of the wind and whether H2S buildup is likely. Where will the lease pumper encounter hydrogen sulfide? Some of the common areas that H2S can be encountered: · Pits or low areas on still days (Figure 3). · Drilling muds. · Gauging tanks. · Closed tanks and vessels. · Pump leaks. · Contaminated sulfur. · Injection of sour gas. · Tank bottoms. · Water injection. · Vapor recovery units. · Acidizing wells. 3B-4 As this list indicates, H2S can be almost anywhere on the lease. This does not mean that lease pumpers must fear H2S while on the job, but it does mean that they must respect and understand the conditions under which H2S may be found and never take chances. B-6. Breathing Apparatus. Fresh air systems can be quite simple to elaborate. The most common system is just a portable air pack. Others may involve an industrial size fresh air bottle strapped into the bed of a pickup with a long hose on a reel either in the pickup or on a stand near the bottom step of the tank battery walkway. Because this system can save lives, the lease pumper should use it and take care of the equipment. When trying to decide what type of breathing apparatus will be best and the most practical for the lease, the lease pumper must first understand the job duties and know where and under what conditions H2S may occur. Individual fresh air packs. When working in the oil fields, there are times when it is essential to have fresh air available. Before the development of modern equipment, hand-driven fresh air systems were used. While such systems supplied breathable air, they had serious limitations. For each job within a high-risk area or if a rescue or assistance was needed, at least one additional person was required to pump fresh air. Today, even the self-contained fresh air system continues to undergo improvement. For example, at one time fresh air containers were heavy steel. The newer aluminum and fiberglass containers are only a fraction of the weight of the former ones. Today’s control systems are also lighter and more compact. With proper equipment, the lease pumper can perform many field duties where gas is present safely without any back-up. The four most popular fresh air units and systems for use in oil fields are: · The five-minute air pack (Figure 4). · The thirty-minute air pack (Figure 4). · The models utilizing large industrial size bottles. · The trailer-mounted standby units. Figure 4. Five-minute and 30-minute air packs on a service bench. (courtesy Marathon Safety Department, Iraan, Texas) The five-minute air pack. The-five minute air pack is widely recognized as a safety backup system. Even in areas where air packs are marginally needed, the five-minute pack can be worn for emergency escape. When working in areas such as derricks when pulling oil wells, cleaning inside tanks, and other situations where air is being continuously supplied by a long hose, the lease pumper should wear five-minute pack as a backup. If the lease pumper must work in an area where more than just a few seconds away, a backup systems should always be carried. The thirty-minute backpack. The thirtyminute fresh air unit is widely used by lease pumpers. Since it takes only a few minutes to gauge tanks, the backpack can last for a 3B-5 week or more before it must be refilled. It comes in a form-fitting box and should be stored there at all times when not in use. The air pack as well as the inside of the box should be kept clean. The lease pumper should carry one or two replacement parts such as the head strap or spider. When one strap breaks, it should be replaced before the backpack is worn again. Compressing fresh air. Air bottles can be filled in most towns for a fee at fire stations. In areas where much fresh air is consumed, such as towns with nearby oil fields, companies sell this refill service. When a company consumes a large amount of fresh air, the owners will install their own refilling equipment (Figure 5). The compressor utilizes ambient air to refill the bottles. The compressor will first compress the air by injecting it into a series of industrial sized bottles. This group of bottles acts as a volume tank, and, since they are filled in advance, this reduces the time needed to refill bottles. Figure 5. An air compressor used to fill air bottles. (courtesy Marathon Safety Department, Iraan, Texas) Because of the heat generated when refilling small bottles, such as the 30-minute bottles, the bottles are immersed in a water tank while being refilled. The 30-minute bottle is stamped with a date. It must be periodically inspected and, after a set time has passed, it is against the law to refill it. The bottle must be replaced with one that meets the inspection test. A heavy fine is imposed, so when the bottle is condemned it must not be refilled. The industrial-sized bottle and hose. The industrial-sized bottle with air line and face mask is a valuable fresh air system when large volumes of air are needed (Figure 6). It can be rigged up countless ways at the tank battery, in the pickup, or on a trailer. Figure 6. Industrial-sized bottles awaiting to be refilled. The water tank to the left is used to cool smaller bottles when they are being filled. (courtesy Marathon Safety Department, Iraan, Texas) 3B-6 Since the bottle is too large and heavy to wear, an air hose is used to pipe air from the bottle to the user. A fresh air mask is utilized by the person breathing the air (Figure 7). When pulling some wells, all of the well servicing crew will be breathing air from masks and hoses. Often it is just on stand-by and, if a horn goes off indicating gas conditions, then the masks will be used while rigging up to kill the well again. Cleaning tanks is another situation where these bottles are highly used. Figure 7. Worker wearing an air mask fed by an industrial bottle. He is also wearing a 5-minute escape pack. (courtesy Mine Safety Appliance Co.) The industrial size bottle can be utilized two ways. It may be mounted in a pickup, and a reel hose used from the pickup while gauging. The bottle may be installed at the end of the walkway on the ground. Trailer-mounted equipment. The air trailer carries the selected equipment needed for well servicing, cleaning tanks, new construction, and other field jobs (Figure 8). This will usually include industrial size bottles, air lines and masks, 30-minute backpacks, 5-minute packs, monitors, sensors, and any other equipment that might be needed for specific jobs. If an emergency should arise on the job, the trailer is the center of the staging area where instructions are issued. Figure 8. Trailer-mounted fresh air equipment. (courtesy Marathon Safety Department, Iraan, Texas) Taking care of air breathing equipment. Judging employees by how well they use and take care of equipment is easy to do. Just visually inspecting equipment and looking at the bottle refill schedule tells most of the story. As soon as the lease pumper receives the equipment, the first thing to do is to inspect it, then put it on, adjust the straps to fit, open the valves, set the rate, and find out if it works satisfactorily. Since most of the equipment is buckled on with quick connect fittings, all of the adjustments stay set from one wearing to the next. If a supervisor 3B-7 checks the equipment and finds that it is still wrapped as shipped or when checked last, it is obvious that the lease pumper is not using it at all. This is expensive equipment and will give service according to the way that it is cared for. The lease pumper’s work is relatively clean with little exposure to greasier jobs, such as well servicing. Every time the air breathing equipment is used, the lease pumper must take a few moments to be sure that it is clean and properly stored for protection. Anything less is not satisfactory personal work attitude and action. 3B-8