Sask. defends sour gas checks despite transparency concerns

By Sarah Mills/CJME News Staff
October 6, 2017 - 3:23pm

The government is defending its regulation of sour gas leaks in light of recent reports into the issue.

A number of media organizations, including students at the University of Regina, spent months researching hydrogen sulfide (H2S) or sour gas leaks and how they are publicly reported.

H2S is a highly toxic gas that can be deadly in high concentrations. It has a rotten egg smell in small doses but has no smell in large levels.

The reports suggested the province wasn’t being transparent about the wells and facilities that produce the highly toxic gas.

Michael Bunz died in 2014 when taking samples of sour gas from a shed in the southeast area of the province.

Since that tragedy, Economy Minister Dustin Duncan insists a lot has changed to prevent a similar death.

“The ministry knows they need to be more vigilant, the steps that have been taken since the 2014-15 time frame I think indicate that we are, as a government, taking this issue very seriously,” Duncan said.

Inspections of wells and facilities that produce sour gas have increased, data is now being collected so inspectors know which H2S sites produce high concentrations and incident reporting now includes a category for sour gas.

“We want to ensure such a tragedy never happens again. Everybody that goes to work, whether it is in the oil patch or anywhere else, shouldn’t have to worry about going home to their family at the end of the day,” Duncan maintained. “We take this issue very seriously.”

But there are critics that believe the government could go further.

“Maybe it is time to go to a third party arms-length regulator,” Progressive Conservative Party of Saskatchewan leader Rick Swenson argued.

Swenson was the energy minister in the 1980s and doesn’t think the government should be acting as a partner of the industry but should offer more oversight, “rather than these companies self-regulating.”

Since June 2017, there have been no sour gas leaks.

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