Document Title:

Hydrogen Sulfide Monitoring near Oil and Gas Production Facilities in Southeastern New Mexico and Potential Effects of Hydrogen Sulfide to Migratory Birds and Other Wildlife

Joel D. Lusk Erik A. Kraft

FFS 2F41- 200220006.1
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Hydrogen sulfide (H2S) is a colorless, flammable and highly toxic gas with a characteristic odor of rotten eggs. It is produced naturally and as a result of human activity. Nationally, the largest source of hydrogen sulfide is from petroleum production. We monitored hydrogen sulfide near oil and gas production facilities near the cities of Roswell, Artesia, Hobbs, and Carlsbad in southeastern New Mexico and evaluated its potential effects on migratory birds and other species of wildlife. We deployed hydrogen sulfide monitors in different wildlife habitats near oil and gas production facilities starting November 6, 2002 and concluding August 6, 2003. Concentrations of hydrogen sulfide as high as 33 parts per million (ppm) were measured near the town of Loco Hills, New Mexico, approximately 25 miles (mi) (40 kilometers [km]) east of Artesia, New Mexico.

Point count surveys of migratory birds were also conducted to determine differences in habitat use of areas impacted by oil and gas production activities. Point count survey results of migratory birds from undisturbed sites (areas without oil and gas activities within 250 meters) were compared with disturbed sites (areas affected by oil and gas activities). Point count surveys began on November 21, 2002 and concluded on August 6, 2003. We found statistically significant differences in the average number of avian individuals per point count, the average number of avian species per point count, the species diversity, and the average concentration of hydrogen sulfide per point count at disturbed and undisturbed sites. Avian diversity and number of species as determined by point count surveys were significantly lower at disturbed sites than at undisturbed sites.

There is little information on the effect of hydrogen sulfide on migratory birds or other wildlife species even though they often occupy habitats that contain elevated hydrogen sulfide in the ambient air. In order to evaluate the toxicity of hydrogen sulfide to a variety of species, we modeled the dose and potential response of the sand dune lizard, as well as several migratory birds and mammal species to hydrogen sulfide. We determined that concentrations as low as 1 ppm may affect highly active migratory birds and mammals. Adoption of ambient hydrogen sulfide air quality standards as low as 1 ppm may be appropriate to protect wildlife.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service



U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service - New Mexico Field Office

Last updated: February 13, 2013