CSB Releases New Aghorn Factual Update

July 27, 2020

July 27, 2020 - Washington, DC - Today, the US Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board (CSB), released a factual update detailing the events surrounding an October 26, 2019 hydrogen sulfide release at a water flood station in Odessa, Texas. Hydrogen sulfide is a colorless, flammable, and toxic gas that is present in the area's oil and gas reservoirs. The site is operated by Aghorn Operating, Inc. (Aghorn). The release resulted in two fatalities – an Aghorn employee and his wife.

The CSB’s investigation is ongoing – to date the investigative team has determined the following details related to the fatal incident:

  • During the evening of October 26, 2019, a component of a pump inside the waterflood station failed, resulting in the release of water containing hydrogen sulfide.
  • Likely after the pump component failure, at 6:38 p.m. a control board within the station registered an oil level alarm for the failed pump.
  • Five minutes later, at 6:43 p.m., the alarm system triggered an automatic phone notification to an Aghorn employee. As part of the normal job duties, the employee drove to the facility to determine the cause of the alarm. While the employee was in the pump house, the employee was overcome by hydrogen sulfide gas.
  • Around 9:30 p.m., having not heard back from her husband for a few hours, the employee’s wife and their two children drove to the waterflood station in her personal vehicle to check on him. After arriving at the facility, it appears she entered the pump house to look for her husband and was also overcome by hydrogen sulfide gas.
  • Just after 10:00 p.m. first responders arrived at the scene and were able to rescue the two children who were still in the wife’s vehicle. Later that night both the employee and his wife were found deceased inside the pump house.
  • The following day, October 27, 2019, the leak was stopped when emergency responders shut a valve that isolated the pump from the water tanks.

Following the incident, the CSB has completed the following activities:

  • Examination of the failed pump revealed that the component of the pump that most likely led to the release was a piece of equipment referred to as a “plunger.”
  • The site was equipped with a hydrogen sulfide alarm system – following the incident testing of the system suggested the alarm system may not have been performing as expected.

The CSB’s investigation is still ongoing – currently the board plans to release its final report in 2020.

The CSB is an independent, non-regulatory federal agency whose mission is to drive chemical safety change through independent investigations to protect people and the environment. The agency’s board members are appointed by the president and confirmed by the Senate. 

CSB investigations looks into all aspects of chemical incidents, including physical causes such as equipment failure as well as inadequacies in regulations, industry standards, and safety management systems. For more information, contact [email protected].


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