First Responder Training on Emergency Situations at Natural Gas Wells
Posted: July 25, 2010
By Jim Clark, Extension Educator
The hills of North Central Pennsylvania are a little safer today after a three hour Emergency First Responder Natural Gas Well Training was held on July 21, 2010, at the Emporium Fire hall in Cameron County. Approximately fifty medical and fire first responders from Cameron, Elk, McKean, and Potter Counties attended the session organized by Kevin Johnson, Director of Cameron County Emergency Services and John Snyder from the Regional Task Force. Range Resources provided the instructor, Ralph Tijerina, Director of Health, Safety, Security, and Environment for Appalachia, even though they are not actively drilling in this area.
Tijerina introduced the responders to the language of the industry and showed several aerial pictures of natural gas well pads to help the responders get orientated to the pad. He covered each stage of gas well drilling from the drilling process, to the completion stage or hydraulic fracturing, and finally production. He also touched on gas pipeline safety, impoundments, and compressor stations.
A breakdown of some of the incidents that have occurred in West Virginia, Pennsylvania, and/or Ohio showed 28% involved slips, trips or falls, 28% were workers struck by or against something, and 21% were related to overexertion.
Several gas related terms were defined including “kick” which is more gas pressure than a person can control, “lost circulation”, which is when there is no fluid coming up the annulus, and “blowout” which is an uncontrolled flow of gas, oil, or other well fluid from the well. Tijerina advised that due to the language barrier, when responders arrive on scene, they should instruct the gas personnel, to actually take them to where they need to be on the pad. Responders should not be surprised if gas personnel ask them to put a harness on if they have to go six feet or more above the ground as this is a safety standard they have to comply with on the gas pad.
Another issue discussed was the need for first responders to have four gas monitors and the need for proper personal protective equipment. Gas pressures on site can reach 9600 pounds per square inch and have to be controlled. In addition, hydrogen sulfide (H2S) is a colorless, flammable, extremely hazardous gas with a “rotten egg” smell that can be found in natural gas. Tijerina stated this gas has been found in New York wells and the local responders said they have found levels of 60 parts per million in the area. Hydrogen sulfide can be lethal and one of the first questions responders should ask when they approach a gas pad site is if hydrogen sulfide is present. The various materials that could be found on the site and the most common places where they would be found were covered from a hazmat point of view.
The local responders felt the training was excellent and helped them understand the terminology and activities on a natural gas well site. Tijerina stated that Range Resources is committed to improving safety conditions in the industry and increasing training and communications with local emergency responders in the state of Pennsylvania.