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Deadly hydrogen sulfide disaster averted
KOSCIUSKO -- Residents in the Kosciusko area are again safe after Hunt Oil Co. successfully killed a well which had internal pressure past the critical stage.
At approximately 4:30 p.m. May 8, Wilson County Pct. 2 Commissioner Paul Pfeil received a phone call from representatives of Hunt Oil, stating that one of its wells near Kosciusko had breached critical levels and could potentially leak hydrogen sulfide gas.
Pfeil, working in accordance with the Wilson County Sheriff’s Office, oversaw the quarantine and evacuation of people within a 2-mile radius (see “What is hydrogen sulfide?”) of the potential contamination zone.
“When we got the call, I notified the sheriff to create a perimeter,” Pfeil said.
Hunt Oil offered to pay for alternative shelter for families who may have been displaced within the evacuation zone. However, all displaced parties went to stay with relatives, Pfeil said.
“Hunt got a kill by 11:30 [p.m.],” Pfeil said. “They were able to get in there and take care of the problem.”
Pfeil said that while it took Hunt close to five hours to bring in the appropriate equipment, once it arrived, the problem was solved quickly.
“Hunt was great,” Pfeil said. “They took care of the problem and brought in the professional people necessary. It took them a while to get the equipment in, but once they did, they had it under control in 45 minutes to an hour.”
A message released by Jeanne Phillips, spokesperson for Hunt Oil, stated that the well was never out of control and that the emergency-response team deployed by the company was able to drop the pressure inside the well to zero by late Wednesday night.
Pfeil said that while the risk of an accident like this is always prevalent, he is pleased with the response of Hunt Oil Co.
“I wish all the oil companies could be like Hunt,” Pfeil said. “They just did everything right. Could this happen again? Sure, it probably could, but if it does, I’ll be glad we have a company like Hunt to take care of our people.”
Edwin Baker, coordinator with the Wilson County Health and Public Safety Office, said LeAnn Hosek of the Wilson County Emergency Management Office called a meeting May 13 with representatives of Hunt to discuss the situation, how well safety procedures worked, and how future actions can be improved.
“I really thought Hunt did a good job overall, except for a few minor things,” Baker said. “... we didn’t know how many people they had in there. If something catastrophic would have happened, then we wouldn’t have known how many people we would have had to get out. Other than that, they did a great job.”
What is hydrogen sulfide?
According to the Occupational Health and Safety Administration website, hydrogen sulfide is a highly poisonous gas which has often been at the center of oil-field related accidents. It is often a byproduct of drilling within the Eagle Ford shale.
The gas is so toxic that people may die from their second inhalation of the deadly gas. At low doses, it has a distinctive odor of rotten eggs; at higher levels, it is odorless and deadly.
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