Gas field hazards kept fresh for workers

PARACHUTE — When an industry group offered training last week on dealing with potentially deadly hydrogen sulfide in the gas fields, Foo Torrez, a driver for Blac Frac Tanks, considered it two hours well-spent.

Torrez said he has been warned of the gas possibly being present at one of his job sites, and he appreciated the thoroughness of Thursday’s session.

“I’ve got a family to go home to, so it matters to me,” Torrez said.

Thursday’s training, presented by Daryl Hillyer of Safety Inc. in Fruita, was offered through the Western Slope Safety Council. The council is made up primarily of oil and gas service companies and developers operating in the Piceance Basin, and it offers free and reduced-rate training to members’ employees.

However, participation hasn’t been as high as some who have been involved with the council would like.

“I’m surprised that more people aren’t taking advantage of it,” said Tina Palumbo, a former council board member who works in human resources for Blac Frac and was one of about 10 people to take the class on hydrogen sulfide awareness.

Palumbo said the council once consisted of as many as 200 members, but it probably has fewer than 50 now. Its efforts were set back by the drilling slowdown of a few years ago.

With drilling having picked up, the council has been trying to offer biweekly training, but it has struggled to get better attendance. Other classes have covered subjects ranging from heat illness to fall protection to lightning avoidance.

Hydrogen sulfide is generally rare in Piceance Basin gas, but it occasionally shows up in surface facilities. Noble Energy recently said it has been dealing with hydrogen sulfide at many of its local wells for years.

Hillyer said energy companies usually require contractors to have hydrogen sulfide training for working where the gas is known to exist. He said they commonly require use of hydrogen sulfide detectors by workers who open tanks to check their fluid levels, because of possible hydrogen sulfide buildup in tanks.

He told workers they should leave the site if their detector shows a hazardous level of the gas unless they have specialized training in areas such as use of supplied oxygen.

The council also holds quarterly half-day meetings for the public. For information, call the council at 970-243-9392 or visit


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