Protocols/Shell H2S


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[edit] Background

As a result of their exercise in June 2011, Shell identified a need to work better with Pincher SAR. During an H2S incident, if they don't immediately locate a resident and have reason to believe they are still in the area, they would want a search to be initiated.

Shell and Pincher SAR subsequently negotiated a protocol where Pincher SAR will provide search management and operations. Pincher SAR will provide a SAR manager as an advisor early on in their incidents. When the need for a search is identified, Pincher SAR will be in charge of that activity. Industry personnel will accompany search teams for safety.


Pincher Creek Search and Rescue and Shell Canada have negotiated a protocol for the involvement of SAR responders in incidents of H2S release in the area managed by the Shell Waterton facility. H2S, a gas that is poisonous at higher concentrations, is found in some natural gas regions. An H2S release can require shelter-in-place or evacuation notifications.

Under the protocol, a Pincher SAR Manager will be notified of incidents and join the ICS structure as a technical advisor on SAR. If a search is to be performed, it will be led by Pincher SAR drawing on personnel from Shell, Pincher SAR and neighbouring SAR groups.

The protocol addresses safety as well as the training of both SAR and Shell personnel. It was tested in an exercise in November, 2011.

Shell anticipates that if this protocol is successful, Shell will use it as a model to negotiate similar agreements with SAR groups near its other holdings in Alberta and B.C.

If you would like more information, see

or contact

[edit] Profile

During an evolving event, Shell has different levels of activation:

  • Alert: Shell has received information about a possible incident but has not confirmed it.
  • Level 1: An incident has been confirmed, but is not at the level to require evacuations. Public in the area will be notified. Any person suspected to be in the area, but not found for notification, would potentially be a search subject at Level 2.
  • Level 2/Level 3: Non-workers in the area will be required to evacuate. A search is conducted for public that are suspected to still be in the area.

Shell typically co-locates the Incident Command Post with the Emergency Operations Centre at the Shell Waterton Plant.

H2S incidents originating from commercial oil or gas field facilities, where search and rescue groups may be involved, would generally fall into three possibly scenarios:

Scenario 1: a drilling operation. Because of the known risk, the company will have additional resources on standby. Problems typically develop over several hours or days before there is an effect on surrounding public. If an incident occurs, the source is known. Potentially a larger amount of H2S can be released over a longer period of time than in other scenarios.

In this scenario events evolve relatively slowly, so that there would typically be time to conduct the search before searchers may have to be withdrawn. They expect hours or days in this phase. Typically 6 hours, occasionally as low as 2 hours.

Scenario 2: an instantaneous release due to equipment failure at a facility or pipeline. The failed equipment is quickly isolated resulting in a smaller amount released than in a well scenario. In pipelines, the isolated segment may be up to 1 km in length, so the exact source is not known initially. The gas cloud disperses quickly.

Scenario 3: The same as scenario 2 but complications in isolation or weather conditions (no wind) result in the gas cloud not dispersing rapidly.

Role 1 - door knocking: When industry personnel are in short supply and time is limited, SAR workers may accompany them (typically in paired teams of 2) to provide notification through door knocking. The industry person will be the team leader. The SAR worker will assist and provide advise in e.g. preserving tracks should the situation escalate to a search.

Role 2 - search - responsive: When there are indications that a resident or other person is in the area but has not been notified through phone or visiting residences, there may be need for a search. There would typically be only one individual or party being searched for. The search areas might be up to 3 quarter sections of open agricultural, forested, or mountainous terrain. The subjects would be responsive (no expectation of simultaneous injury). Helicopter, vehicle, quad and foot teams would be used. (There is no history in this region of this type of search ever being required.)

Role 3 - search - unresponsive: In the unlikely occurance of an H2S release that overwhelms public in the area, after the hazard disperses, there may be individuals who have been "knocked down" and are unconscious. The subjects would not be responsive. Helicopter, vehicle, quad and foot teams would be used. (There is no history in this region of this type of search ever being required.)

Role 4 - provide mobile command post: Under discussion and not yet decided is whether PCSAR's mobile command post could be of benefit for general use in the field during an incident.

[edit] Protocol


  1. SAR responders will only be working in H2S environments where it is possible to work safely without masks.
    • Note: The Incident Management Team will continuously make this evaluation based on for example, readings in the field, computer modelling of gas cloud, and access to egress routes.
    • Note: As a guideline, SAR workers, whether experienced or inexperienced with H2S, will be deployed when readings are 0 ppm (i.e. less than 500 ppb).
    • Note: The legal working limit is a maximum of 10 ppm for a maximum of 8 hours.
  2. SAR dogs will not be used.
    • Rationale: dogs are believed to be attracted to H2S odour and could expose themselves to high spot concentration.
  3. An experienced industry safety person will accompany all SAR teams and be constantly monitoring the environment.
  4. As in any incident, SAR workers will not be encouraged to work in an environment where they don't feel comfortable.
  5. At all times, Shell will be responsible for the safety of the field teams.
  6. Shell will be responsible for directing and performing the notification operations, with possible assistance from SAR workers.
  7. Pincher SAR will be responsible for directing and performing the search operations should they be required.
  8. Costs of the SAR response will be paid for by Shell.


  1. Upon reaching Level 1 or higher, Shell's Logistics Section will contact Pincher SAR and request a Search Manager attend the Incident Command Post.
    • Rationale: Go big fast. Don't know whether SAR will be required but better to get involved early.
    • Contact: 403-627-2262 (Dispatch through STARS Link Centre) or 403-627-5804 (On-call Manager)
    • Note: Shell might choose to add 403-627-5804 to their automated notification system and call 403-627-2262 only if there is no answer on the first number. The STARS Link Centre is not a suitable number to receive an automated call unless the system states that it is trying to alert Pincher Creek Search and Rescue.
  2. The Pincher SAR Manager will evaluate the situation and determine whether it is appropriate for Pincher SAR to be involved.
    • If the situation matches the above profile, it normally would be appropriate
  3. The Pincher SAR Manager contacts the tasking agency (Pincher Creek RCMP) and recommends that Pincher SAR be tasked to respond.
    • Note: Shell will already have notified the RCMP at a Level 1
    • Rationale: This will provide liability and WCB coverage.
  4. The RCMP member tasks Pincher SAR to respond.
  5. The PCSAR Manager puts a PCSAR Call-Out Person on stand-by. In incidents that start at Level 2 or higher, the PCSAR Manager requests the entire team and possibly neighboring teams to stage at (e.g.) the Pincher Fire Hall or to be on standby.
  6. The PCSAR Manager attends the Incident Command Post and assumes the ICS role of Technical Advisor on SAR.
  7. The PCSAR Manager maintains an awareness of the efforts to notify the public at Level 1 (rovers) and as appropriate to the evolving situation, has PCSAR members put on stand-by.
    • If there is a shortage of personnel and time to complete the notification, SAR workers may be asked to pair with industry workers to perform door knocking.
      • Note: If this were to happen, it would likely be when readings are at 1 ppm or higher (Level 2 or Level 3), so the guideline to use only SAR workers who are experienced with H2S would apply.
  8. If the incident goes to Level 2 or higher, Shell Incident Commander appoints the PCSAR Manager to the additional ICS role of "Evacuation/Search Leader". From that role, the PCSAR Manager directs the search effort.
  9. A full activation of PCSAR members is undertaken
    • Note: Members arrive typically in 45 minutes + travel time. Possible use of the automated call-out system, stand-by and staging can reduce this time.
  10. When the subjects are found and evacuated or it is unsafe to be in the area, SAR workers are withdrawn.
  11. The PCSAR Manager remains in the role of Technical Advisor until the incident drops below Level 1.
    • Rationale: additional searches may evolve

Partial ICS organization chart:

            Incident Commander
   Operations                  Planning
  Section Chief              Section Chief
        |                          |
  Public Safety            Search and Rescue
 Group Supervisor          Technical Advisor
        |                       (PCSAR)

[edit] Timeline

The following would be typical time line for a response. Actual times will vary. This is a realistic average.

00:00 : Shell calls PCSAR. Conversation either initiated through on-call manager 403-627-5804 or relayed through dispatch (STARS) 403-627-2262.

00:03 : Shell & PCSAR Search Manager finish conversation.

00:04 : PCSAR notifies RCMP, OFC

00:13 : RCMP tasking and OFC tracking issued.

00:14 : (Level 2) PCSAR initiates call-out to members.

00:20 : PCSAR search manager leaves Pincher Creek to attend Shell Waterton Plant EOC.

00:45 : (Level 2) PCSAR members marshal at Pincher Creek fire hall, available to travel to airport heliport (5 minutes) or to incident site.

00:50 : PCSAR search manager arrives at Shell Waterton Plant EOC.

[edit] Personnel requirements

Manager to Attend ICP: A manager is required to attend the Incident Command Post at a Level 1 incident.
Only 3 of the current pool of PCSAR managers may be available. Of the others

  • 2 are likely to be preempted by a simultaneous activation of PCCEMA to deal with the same incident.

SAR workers experienced with H2S:

  • approximately 5 members of PCSAR
  • should be pre-identified

SAR workers not experienced with H2S:

  • rest of PCSAR members, members from neighbouring groups

Currently 11 members with H2S Alive training

[edit] Support

[edit] Training

Training will be provided to SAR volunteers from PCSAR and neighbouring groups on working safely in an H2S environment. This is done to raise the confidence of SAR volunteers that they can be safe in such environments. (See arrangements).

PCSAR SAR managers are expected to take H2S training to support their managing of responses to these incidents.

Shell Incident Commanders will receive an orientation on the basics of what SAR can provide, what SAR needs, and how to work with SAR.

Shell rovers will receive training on

  • the do's and don't's of search prior to trained SAR workers showing up
  • e.g. how to avoid damaging tracking information at vehicles

The industry safety personnel that will accompany SAR teams will receive training on

  • how to work with trained SAR personnel.
    • roles and responsibilities
  • purposeful wandering

A mock incidents were run in 2011 and 2014 to validate this protocol, accompanied by a series of table tops in 2013 and 2014.

An orientation for Shell and PCSAR members is planned.

[edit] Radio Channel

Shell's 6 radio channels have been added to PCSAR's radios to aid intercommunications.

[edit] To do


  • (done) explore options for a weekend offering of H2S Alive course for better availability to volunteers
  • confirm protocol with RCMP
  • explore whether can provide training on helicopter safety and spotting from helicopter
  • (done) arrange PCSAR manager participation in 2013-03-05 mock
  • Arrange SAR training of Shell Incident Commanders, rovers, and industry safety workers. Either focused SAR training for their role, or a general SAR Fundamentals certification.


  • (done) store Shell maps in mobile command post
  • (review: Brett Wuth) monitor and encourage H2S training to members
  • (done) Notify BC SAR community that may be model for other areas (AB already done)
  • (Brian) pre-identify which PCSAR members are H2S experienced
  • (review: Brett Wuth) discuss with PCCEMA given 2 search managers that are PCCEMA members, whether should plan to release 1 to this protocol
  • support this protocol with signed MOU
  • (Brian) review possibility of using mobile command post
  • (done) change channels in PCSAR radios to new Shell channel assigned to search

[edit] Protocol development


Pincher SAR

  • 2013: Brett Wuth, Brian Balak, Janet Jones
  • previous: Eric Bruder, Ron Hann

Shell Canada

  • 2013: Jim Little, Roger Stebner, Bill Andrew, Steve Plewes
  • previous: Brandy Kilkenny, Cal Piotrowski


  • 2011-06-16 Shell Waterton 68 ERP exercise
  • 2011-07-21 PCSAR exercise review
  • 2011-07-30 Shell requests discussions
  • 2011-08-09 PCSAR/Shell phone discussions
  • 2011-08-11 PCSAR/Shell meeting
  • 2011-08-16 discussed at PCSAR preplan mtg
  • 2011-09-06 approved by PCSAR board
  • 2011-10-14 Nov 19 exercise planning meeting sets objective of verifying protocol
  • 2011-10-18 reviewed and updated at PCSAR preplan mtg with Shell
  • 2011-11-19 Shell pipeline exercise
  • 2012-01-03 Jim Little, Cal Piotrowski attend PCSAR board mtg re phone system; discuss training of Shell personnel with Brett
  • 2012-01-09 announcement sent to SARA board, Alberta SAR community
  • 2013-02-05 protocol reviewed and updated by Shell and PCSAR
  • 2013-03-05 table top exercise
  • 2013-11-21 table top exercise
  • 2014-01-30 table top exercise
  • 2014-02-20 table top exercise
  • 2014-04-16 major exercise
  • 2014-06-13 review protocol status
  • 2021-08-18 Pieridae exercise
Facts about Protocols/Shell H2SRDF feed
Review unspecified  +
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