The terms acid gas and sour gas are often incorrectly treated as synonyms. Strictly speaking, a sour gas is any gas that specifically contains hydrogen sulfide in significant amounts; an acid gas is any gas that contains significant amounts of acidic gases such as carbon dioxide (CO2) or hydrogen sulfide. Thus, carbon dioxide by itself is an acid gas but not a sour gas.
Processing and safety
Before a raw natural gas containing hydrogen sulfide and/or carbon dioxide can be used, the raw gas must be treated to reduce impurities to acceptable levels and this is commonly done with an amine gas treating process. The removed H2S is most often subsequently converted to by-product elemental sulfur in a Claus process or alternatively converted to valuable sulfuric acid in a WSA Process unit.
Processes within oil refineries or natural gas processing plants that remove mercaptans and/or hydrogen sulfide are commonly referred to as sweetening processes because they result in products which no longer have the sour, foul odors of mercaptans and hydrogen sulfide.
Carbon dioxide at concentrations of 7% to 10.1% cause dizziness, headache, visual and hearing dysfunction, and unconsciousness within a few minutes to an hour. Concentrations above 17% are lethal when exposed for more than one minute.
- NaturalGas.org website page Archived 2011-01-01 at the Wayback Machine. Processing Natural Gas
- Energy Information Agency website page Natural Gas Processing: The Crucial Link Between Natural Gas Production and Its Transportation to Market
- U.S. Environmental Protection Agency: "Carbon Dioxide as a Fire Suppressant: Examining the Risks"
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