Hydrogen Sulfide is a common known chemical compound in the oil and gas industry, specifically found in refineries where crude oil is converted into useable products in the most economical and efficient manner. Managing hydrogen sulfide (H2S) is a challenge at every stage of hydrocarbon production, refining, and transportation. Hydrogen sulfide harms product value, compromises environmental and safety compliance, damages infrastructure integrity from corrosion attack, produces odors, and more. Intertek offers expert hydrogen sulfide treatment and management services to help petroleum clients manage H2S problems.
Hydrogen sulfide occurs naturally in crude oil (sour crudes) and can be generated from refining processes, including hydro-cracking, hydrolysis and elemental sulfur production. Hydrogen sulfide concerns Increasing world demand for crude oil coupled with the increasing concentration of H2S in the oil and products formed from processing hydrocarbon is placing greater emphasis on the safety, environmental and operational concerns associated with hydrocarbon management. Refineries and storage facilities, such as tank farms, are likely to encounter problems specific to the handling of crude oils, intermediates and refined products that contain or generate hydrogen sulfide. Heavy oils, including crude oil, residual fuel and gas oil, tend to have large concentrations of H2S. This becomes a concern if these products are to be stored for an extended time or transported. Lighter products leaving the refinery may also be contaminated with hydrogen sulfide that distills into them during the refining process.
Refineries: Oil and gas operations may emit hydrogen sulfide, routinely or accidentally, during the extraction, storage, transport, or processing stage. During of extraction, hydrogen sulfide may be released into the atmosphere at wellheads, pumps, piping, separation devices, oil storage tanks, water storage vessels, and during flaring operations.
Flares burn gases that cannot be sold as well as gases at points in the system where operating problems may occur, as a safety measure. Because it cannot be sold, hydrogen sulfide is routinely flared. Sulfur dioxide (SO2) is the product of combusting hydrogen sulfide, but in the event of incomplete combustion, hydrogen sulfide may be emitted.
Safety concerns of H2S:
Safety for personnel and for the community is the foremost consideration when dealing with crudes or other hydrocarbons containing large amounts of hydrogen sulfide. H2S is especially insidious because it deadens the sense of smell at concentrations as low as 30 parts per million (ppm). Death can occur within a few breaths at low concentrations of 700 ppm. Hydrocarbon containing even a few ppm of hydrogen sulfide can produce headspace concentrations in excess of these levels. In addition to the risk of direct harm to exposed personnel, products and equipment, environmental considerations such as odor and emissions control must also be addressed.
Changing demographics mean that more communities may be susceptible to nuisance odors from nearby facilities. Depending on specific local and national regulations, penalties and fines can result from exceeding hydrogen sulfide emissions standards.
HEALTH EFFECTS OF HYDROGEN SULFIDE:
Hydrogen sulfide is a mucous membrane and respiratory tract irritant; pulmonary edema, which may be immediate or delayed, can occur after exposure to high concentrations.
- Low concentrations irritate the eyes, nose, throat and respiratory system (e.g., burning/tearing of eyes, cough, shortness of breath). Asthmatics may experience breathing difficulties. The effects can be delayed for several hours, or sometimes several days, when working in low-level concentrations. Repeated or prolonged exposures may cause eye inflammation, headache, fatigue, irritability, insomnia, digestive disturbances and weight loss.
- Moderate concentrations can cause more severe eye and respiratory irritation (including coughing, difficulty breathing, accumulation of fluid in the lungs), headache, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, staggering and excitability.
- High concentrations can cause shock, convulsions, inability to breathe, extremely rapid unconsciousness, coma and death. Effects can occur within a few breaths, and possibly a single breath.
SOLUTION: Before entering areas where hydrogen sulfide may be present:
- Air must be tested for the presence and concentration of hydrogen sulfide by a qualified person using air monitoring equipment, such as hydrogen sulfide detector.
- If the gas is present, the area must be ventilated continually to remove the gas.
- If the gas cannot be removed, the person entering the space/area must use an appropriate respiratory protection and any other necessary personal protective equipment, rescue and communication equipment.
Please feel free to learn more about the effects of hydrogen sulfide in our online support section. There you will find useful data about the facts and myths of carbon monoxide. Also feel free to reach out to us and speak with one of our cutomer service technicians for more information.
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