U.S. Chemical Safety Board on Aghorn’s waterflood station, Odessa Texas: Four serious and willful workplace safety violations where Jacob Dean and wife were killed by sour gas

Many Safety Issues Found Where Texas Oilfield Worker Died from Gas Leak by Insurance Journal, May 6, 2021

In its report on the Oct. 26, 2019, hydrogen sulfide gas release that killed a Texas oilfield worker and his wife, the U.S. Chemical Safety Board (CSB) says it found multiple safety issues at the site where the incident occurred.

Jacob Dean died after being overcome by poisonous hydrogen sulfide gas at the Aghorn Operating waterflood station in Odessa, Texas. His wife, Natalee, was killed by the fumes when she went to check on him.

The Aghorn Operating waterflood station is used as part of a process to extract oil from underground reservoirs in West Texas. According to the CSB, waterflood stations are common in Texas.

“At the Aghorn waterflood station, pumps, in a building called the ‘pump house,’ are used to pressurize and inject the water back into the oilfield. The injected water adds pressure to the reservoir allowing a larger quantity of oil to be extracted,” the CSB said in a statement.

According to the CSB, Jacob Dean went to check on a pump after the “waterflood station’s control system activated an oil level alarm.”

“The CSB found, however, that the pumper [Jacob Dean] failed to isolate the pump from energy sources before performing the work. At some point while the pumper was in the vicinity of the pump, the pump automatically turned on, and water containing hydrogen sulfide escaped into the pump house. The pumper was overcome and fatally injured by the toxic gas.”

His wife also was overcome when she went to check on him after several hours passed and he did not return home.

“After the incident, the CSB found that a plunger on the pump had shattered, which had allowed the release to occur. Due to the limitations of the available evidence, the CSB was unable to determine whether the pump failure and toxic release happened before the pumper arrived at the facility, or when the pump automatically turned on while the pumper was closing valves,” according to the statement released by the CSB.

In April 2020, OSHA proposed $105,253 in penalties and cited Aghorn with four serious and one willful workplace safety violations as a result of the incident.

The company is contesting the citations.

The CSB’s report details the following safety issues found at Aghorn:

  • Nonuse of Personal Hydrogen Sulfide Detector: The pumper was not wearing his personal hydrogen sulfide detection device inside the pump house on the night of the incident, and there is no evidence that Aghorn management required the use of these devices.
  • Nonperformance of Lockout / Tagout: At the time of the incident, Aghorn did not have any written Lockout / Tagout policies or procedures. The pumper did not perform Lockout / Tagout to deenergize the pump before performing work on it.
  • Confinement of Hydrogen Sulfide Inside Pump House: The pump house could be ventilated by two bay doors, exhaust fans, and natural vents. Due to the limitations of the available evidence, the CSB was unable to confirm whether the exhaust fans were operational at the time of the incident. The two bay doors were approximately 60% open. The building was not adequately ventilated during the incident.
  • Lack of Safety Management Program: The CSB found the formal company safety or operational policies and procedures used by Aghorn Operating were incomplete and inadequate.
  • Nonfunctioning Hydrogen Sulfide Detection and Alarm System: The waterflood station was equipped with a hydrogen sulfide detection and alarm system. However, the system’s control panel did not receive signals from the internal and external detection sensors on the night of the incident, and, therefore, did not trigger either of the two alarms.
  • Deficient Site Security: As per Aghorn’s informal policy, when an Aghorn employee is working at the facility, the access gates are normally left unlocked. The unlocked gates allowed the pumper’s spouse to drive directly to the waterflood station and enter the pump house, where she was also fatally injured.

As a result of its investigation, the CSB made several recommendations to Aghorn Operating Inc. for safety improvements at all waterflood stations where the potential exposure to dangerous levels of toxic hydrogen sulfide gas exists. These include:

  • Mandate the use of personal hydrogen sulfide detection devices;
  • Develop a site-specific, formalized and comprehensive Lockout / Tagout program for each facility;
  • Commission an independent and comprehensive analysis of each facility to examine ventilation and mitigation systems;
  • Develop and demonstrate the use of a safety management program that includes a focus on protecting workers and non-employees from hydrogen sulfide;
  • Ensure that hydrogen sulfide detection and alarm systems are properly maintained and configured, and develop site-specific detection and alarm programs and associated procedures;
  • Ensure that the hydrogen sulfide detection and alarm system designs employ multiple layers of alerts unique to hydrogen sulfide; and
  • Develop and implement a formal, written, site-specific security program to prevent unknown and unplanned entrance of those not employed by Aghorn.

In addition to recommendations to the company, the CSB made a recommendation to OSHA to issue a safety information product that addresses the requirements for protecting workers from hazardous air contaminants and from hazardous energy, and a recommendation to the Railroad Commission of Texas to develop and send a Notice to Operators to all oil and gas operators that fall under its jurisdiction that describes the safety issues described in the CSB’s report.

Source: CSB

1982 Alberta: Sour gas and sickness; Smelly smelly run-around. Regulators/Health authorities, then and now, lie to the harmed, coddle the polluters. Alberta’s Pollution Solution: Discredit the poisoned; call them crazy.

Nakoda Nation, Alberta: 1988, Engineer reported hundreds of drinking water wells contaminated with sour gas on Stoney Reserve west of Calgary. H2S is deadly, damages the brain even at low levels. AER blamed nature and if not nature, then bacteria. Same blame game polka after frac’ing contaminated drinking water wells with gas at Ponoka, Wetaskiwin, Spirit River, Rockyford, Rosebud, Redland, etc.

2008: Edson, Alberta, South Rosevear Sour Gas Plant: 2.8 million standard cubic feet per day of H2S / CO2 acid gas injected since 2007

2012: Poison us, then buy us off: Encana Reaches Compensation Deal for Sour Gas Leak

2012: $250000 in community safety projects following Encana deadly sour gas leak

2013: B.C. school kids in danger, can suffer DNA damage illness from leaking sour gas several km away, yet B.C. allows wells within 100 m (~330 feet) of schools while Dallas City Council votes in 1,500 foot setback from homes and wells!

2013: Crossfield steer killed by Taqa North sour gas release

2013: Crews Still Trying to Contain Sour Gas Leak by Questerre Energy Corporation South of Grand Prairie (near recent groundwater contamination case caused by fracing) & north of Grand Cache, Alberta

2014: B.C. horse breeder recounts fracking sour gas leak scare caused by Encana

2015: Why are Spectra Energy and the NEB (changed to CER) lying about flaring deadly sour gas at Taylor, BC, claiming it poses no risk to the public?

2015: WITH PHOTOS, AER’s EMERGENCY COMMAND CENTRE SET UP 2.5 HRS AWAY! DON’T AER COMMAND STAFF WANT TO DAMAGE THEIR BRAINS? Encana’s Fox Creek blow out spewing 20,000,000,000 litres/day sour gas & condensate: Where’s the regulator? Ex-Encana VP Gerard Protti = AER Chair; Ex-Encana Manager Mark Taylor = AER VP Industry Operations

2015: SPECIAL REPORT: Sour gas from oil wells a deadly problem in southeast Saskatchewan, Human and animal deaths linked to hydrogen sulphide emissions

2017: New Study: Sulfide-producing bacteria dominate hydraulically fractured shale oil & gas wells. “An estimated 70% of waterflooded reservoirs world-wide have soured.”

2017: Whimps Extraordinaire! Ex-Encana VP (Gerard Protti) led AER taps Encana with $7,500 administrative penalty for major sour gas blowout at Fox Creek Alberta, Nothing for injecting 18 million litres of frac fluid into Rosebud’s drinking water aquifers.

2019: Look out Albertans whose pensions Kenney gave to AIMCo. Crazy Days in Alberta: The Poison Wells File. The province let oil and gas firms create a $100-billion disaster. New example? Shell Pieridae Briko Ikkuma Alberta Foothills Sour Gas Marriage financed by AIMCo and about $10Billion in liabilities.

2019: Encana’s Vexatious Sour Gas Frack Flaring near Grand Prairie, Alberta; After clip posted, Encana pulls a scrubby dubby – removes from public access their emergency response plan.

2019: Why did Paramount suddenly distribute Emergency Response Plan in Town of Fox Creek? To distract from Sprocket Energy’s 460,000 litre spill/leak/frac hit at abandoned sour gas well near Smoke Lake Provincial Park and the town?

2019: Frac Hit at Fox Creek? Wanna bet industry’s pet lamb, AER, will issue no fine? 460,000 litres fluids & contaminated water spews forth from abandoned Sprocket Energy Corp sour gas well 6 km SW of Fox Creek, Nothing reported in the media!

2019: The Silent Killer Strikes Again: Texas oilfield worker killed after exposure to H₂S (sour) gas at Aghorn Energy site in Odessa, Wife (mother of 3) dies checking on him, Two children exposed but survived. Lawsuit filed.

2020: Sprocket Energy Corp: Bigger sour gas release – 480,000 litres – by “mechanical failure” (code for frac hit?) at Fox Creek Alberta. People live there, H2S is deadly, damages the brain even at low levels, yet again, media reports nothing. Jason Kenney/Steve Harper have friends on the board?

2020: AER laid five environmental and conservation-related charges against Tourmaline Oil and spinoff Topaz Energy Corp., and three charges against CWC Energy Services for knowingly leaking sour gas (H2S) “that impacted human health” in 2018 near Spirit River, Alberta. Court hearing Feb 19, 2020 in Grand Prairie. Why no charges against Encana, now Ovintiv, for its illegal sour gas venting near Rosebud and illegally operating a sour gas facility and wells as sweet?

2021: More set-up to hang Canadian taxpayers with frac’d gas clean up? Tourmaline buys Black Swan with $350 Million debt. What about AER’s five charges against Tourmaline for 2018 sour gas release that reportedly harmed human health? Much “natural” gas in NEBC is sour.

2021: Another “No Duty of Care” legally immune AER “shell” game to let big polluter Shell avoid clean up? Looks like it. AER gives Shell-Pieridae sour gas marriage a hearing

etc. etc. etc.

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