The Oil industry of Southeast Saskatchewan is evident by pumpjacks in fields, refineries in certain locations, oil trucks on roads and in some areas flames coming out of large pipes on the ground.

The flames, or flaring, are caused by the burning off of Hydrogen Sulfide also known as H2S.

"H2S is a colourless gas heavier than air and extremely toxic, in small concentrations it has a rotten egg smell," explained Dean Pylypuk, South East Regional Manager for the Ministry of the Economy, Field Operations based in Estevan.

Pylypuk went on to say how H2S is a naturally occurring gas found in a variety of geological formations. It is formed by the decompensation of organic material in the absence of oxygen. It is found in a variety of industrial processes including sewage and wastewater treatment facilities and the production and refinement of petroleum, pulp and paper mills, sulphur compounds and heavy water. 

Lower concentrations are not believed to be harmful but higher concentrations are dangerous.

Weyburn residents are not likely to be affected by H2S within the city limits but for those who live on farms around Weyburn, particularly south of the city are likely to come across the rotten egg smell at some point. 

If there is a concern about the presence of H2S there is a number to call.

"The public is directed to call our emergency support line in the event they come across or drive through what they suspect to be an H2S plume, We are the primary regulator of the upstream industry and our support line number is 1-844-764-3637. That number when they listen to the voice prompts will be directed to another number which is manned 24-7," said Pylypuk.

Symptoms of H2S poisoning range from headaches and nausea to loss of consciousness and instant death.

It is normal to want to help someone if they have collapsed but in the event of a suspected H2S poisoning, this is not the right thing to do.

"Personal safety is paramount, if one suspected that somebody has been knocked down by H2S the immediate response would be to evacuate immediately, to get themselves to a safe area then call for assistance at that time." encourages Pylypuk.

More information on Hydrogen Sulfide can be found here.

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