12 February 2007 at 5:50:33 PM
After gas comes out of the ground, it's piped over to a processing plant to *sweeten* it up. I started wondering about this one night when I went out in the yard and smelled rotten eggs. Went out one day to look for the gas processing plant that is near us, and found the Cowtown one run by Quicksilver close to the county line, on the Hood County side. One more I had been wondering about and that's the one in Tolar. Have a pic of it now from Lionel in Robertson County, it's in between Glen Rose and Tolar.
Note that the Cowtown Gas Processing Plant had a complaint filed against it by a resident back last October 16, 2006 # 82785
Facility currently operating 5-7 compressors. Will install and operate up to 20 total. Currently has 1 flare. WIll install 2 more. Complainant alleges that facility is flaring at night and causing thick, black emissions.
The complaint was scheduled to be investigated and then closed on 10/31/2006. Would be interesting to know the details of this.
Lionel of Robertson County also sent me a document that describes the effect of Hydrogen Sulfide, Oil and Gas on people's health.
The literature on human health and hydrogen sulfide reveals serious and lasting
physiological and neurological effects associated with acute exposure. The health effects of
chronic exposure to lower levels of H2S, as documented in several studies, also include persistent
physiological and neurological disturbances. Oil and gas facilities can be expected to
accidentally and routinely emit hydrogen sulfide in concentrations that span a wide range and are
associated with a variety of health effects. Academic studies, my conversations with health
department staff, and available data from monitoring projects help establish that hydrogen
sulfide is indeed present near oil and gas facilities.
Because people live near oil and gas sites, emissions of H2S may be routinely
compromising human health. The interviews I conducted with people who live close to oil and
gas facilities, as well as some research reported in the Literature Review section, provide
evidence of health impacts from exposure to H2S emitted by oil and gas development. Although
the anecdotal evidence from my interviews is vulnerable to criticism that other pollutants or
individual health factors may be responsible for the symptoms, the reported health effects are
consistent with hydrogen sulfide exposure. The fact that concentrations of H2S to which people
are exposed are often not known does not imply that hydrogen sulfide is not the cause of the
observed health effects. The lack of precise exposure data is, however, one area that future
research should address.
In the meanwhile, people’s health needs to be protected. The proximity of oil and gas
wells to people’s residences is one route of exposure to hydrogen sulfide, and to other pollutants
associated with oil and gas extraction. The persistence of the land ownership pattern known as
‘split estate,’ under which one entity owns the rights to the surface of the property and another to
the minerals under the surface, is partly responsible for the proximity of oil and gas facilities to
residences. Another factor are low setbacks, the minimum distance required between an energy
facility and a specific type of development.153 For example, in Colorado, where some of the
interviewees live, the residential setback requirement for oil and gas wells is 150 feet.154 In
Texas, the setback is also 150 feet,155 while the New Mexico residential setback is just 100
feet.156 In Alberta, Canada, the residential setback requirement for sour gas wells areas is 100 m
(approximately 330 feet).157 While greater than Colorado’s and Texas’s required setback, this
distance may not be sufficient, as some of the interviewees were exposed to hydrogen sulfide in
Alberta. To truly provide a margin of safety and protection to people who live in areas of oil and
gas development, whether the facilities are on their surface property or not, greater setback
distances need to be established. The siting of oil refineries and gas processing plants near
residences, and conversely, building homes near existing refineries and gas plants, exposes
people to a host of pollutants, including hydrogen sulfide. This is often an issue with the
dimension of social and environmental justice added to questions of protecting public health.
Some technological options exist that may help mitigate the effects of hydrogen sulfide
on the health of people who live near emission sources. One advanced technology for odor
control, consisting of a dry scrubbing system with multiple beds of engineered media (made by
soaking, or on a rotating agglomeration disk), removed hydrogen sulfide at a wastewater
at http://www.eub.ca/docs/documents/directives/directive056.pdf, pp.54-55.
treatment facility with an efficiency of 99.94 percent.158 This odor control technology reduced
the peak inlet hydrogen sulfide concentration of 108.0 ppm to 0.061 ppm.159 Such odor
abatement technologies could be required at all facilities that emit hydrogen sulfide, including oil
refineries and gas processing plants. At points of oil and gas extraction and processing, requiring
high efficiency flares would ensure that less hydrogen sulfide (and other pollutants) escape into
ambient air unburned.
As I show in the Regulations and Recommendations section, at the federal level, the oil
and gas industry and the paper and pulp industry have exerted their influence to prevent H2S
from being included on the Clean Air Act’s Hazardous Air Pollutants (HAPs) list, and to exempt
it from reporting under the EPA’s Toxic Release Inventory (TRI). At the time of writing, the
EPA is reviewing both decisions, which at the very least indicates that some concern exists over
the lack of stricter regulation of hydrogen sulfide at the federal level. The level of regulation of
hydrogen sulfide varies widely across the states that have established an ambient standard in the
absence of a federal one, but again, the very existence of ambient standards suggests that
hydrogen sulfide is a concern.
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