April 23


That hydrogen sulfide has to go somewhere

Illustration by Martha StroudIllustration by Martha StroudIs a complaint about a leaky disposal well a business squabble or a percolating health risk? A Railroad Commission hearing could help answer that question.

Houston-based Layline Petroleum is pressuring the Texas Railroad Commission to hold a hearing about the safety of a key disposal well that stores toxic waste from more than 180 gas and oil wells in the Eagle Ford Shale.

The disposal well and the pipeline that serves it, both operated by Regency Field Services of Dallas, were shut down for five weeks in late summer and early fall while Layline plugged a nearby oil well that had become contaminated with hydrogen sulfide – a common natural-gas companion that’s lethal at 1,000 parts per million and can cause serious physical injury at concentrations as low as 50 ppm when inhaled. (By comparison, hydrogen cyanide, once a popular bedbug remedy and an Agatha Christie favorite in the form of potassium cyanide, summons the Grim Reaper at 3,500 ppm.)

Since then, unexpected levels of hydrogen sulfide have been detected in at least two other production wells in the area.

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