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Radiological Support for the Oil and Gas Industry

The oil and gas (O&G) industry performs conventional and unconventional drilling procedures through various subsurface layers of rock to produce oil and natural gas. Produced water, flowback water, drill cuttings and off-gas sources that come from the process contain naturally occurring radioactive material, or NORM, to a greater or lesser degree. The isotope Ra-226, which is naturally-occurring and exhibits greater mobility in the environment than other NORM isotopes, has been identified in samples of these production streams.

In 2013, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), initiated a field study to identify the types and quantities of naturally occurring radioactive materials (NORM) being encountered in the oil and gas industry in support of possible future regulatory action. Specifically, the DEP is interested in understanding radioactivity levels in drill cuttings (vertical and horizontal), natural gas and oil processing pipes and equipment, waste water generated at drilling sites, and in the sludge produced during waste water processing in order to determine the type and magnitude of regulatory control and oversight that is required. They are equally interested in the potential for transfer of NORM-bearing materials from production sites to publicly owned treatment works (POTWs), centralized waste treatment (CWT) facilities and zero liquid discharge (ZLD) facilities for processing.

Some of Plexus-NSD’s clients have already been contacted by the DEP for the purpose of investigation NORM levels, and we are hearing from more of them every day. Others have not yet been contacted, but they are nonetheless wanting to get ahead of the game by understanding whether NORM is present at their sites and to what degree. Still others that do not have production sites in Pennsylvania, are concerned that their State may soon mount similar initiatives. In all cases, the O&G industry in general wishes to understand and pre-plan for potential future liabilities and increased regulatory influence.

If you are an oil or gas producer in the State of Pennsylvania that has been contacted by the DEP, if you are interested in whether you have radiological issues of significance at your production sites, and if you are interested in keeping the cost of these issues to a practical minimum, we hope you will consider contacting Plexus-NSD. The following are just a few of the support services we can provide:

  • Plexus-NSD can provide technically defensible “shadow” measurements while the State is at your property that can be used to confirm or counter, as applicable, the State’s findings.
  • Plexus-NSD can cost-effectively characterize the radiological constituents at your site and determine whether they have the potential to radiologically impact your employees or the surrounding population.
  • Plexus-NSD can assist you in collecting and analyzing samples for radiological constituents, including the preparation of specifications for laboratories, selecting State-approved laboratories for the analyses, monitoring the status of the samples as they make their way through the laboratory, and providing you with an interpretation of the analytical results that is written in a way that is easy to understand.
  • Plexus-NSD can provide hazard communication training in radiation and radioactivity to your on-site staff, answer any questions they might have about radioactivity in the workplace, and ease their concerns about radiation-related issues.
  • Plexus-NSD can prepare written procedures for working safely at NORM sites that include standard industry monitoring and recording practices, and proven cost control methods.
  • Plexus-NSD can provide waste characterization, profiling and disposal services for NORM that is eligible for disposal within the State of Pennsylvania. If not eligible, we can prevent suitable and cost-effective alternatives.
  • Plexus-NSD can facilitate technical discussions with regulators and work closely with your safety and management personnel to ensure they fully understand all of the relevant issues.
  • Plexus-NSD’s operations have been certified to the ISO 9001:2008 international quality standard, which speaks to the quality of our work and our attention to customer service.

The presence of NORM at oil and gas production facilities is not new, although increasing aggressive state regulation and control over the NORM aspects of these operations is fairly recent. Chances are more likely than not that your facility will be asked to participate in a State-sponsored investigation, that one or more of your employees will become concerned as they hear more about NORM at production facilities in the local news media, or that your waste processing site will contact you because a gate monitor their site “alarmed” when a vehicle carrying your waste passed through. These are all easily handled situations, as long as the handling is well-managed.

If you are considering Plexus-NSD’s services, simply Contact Us and an Plexus-NSD Certified Health Physicist would be glad to talk with you more about the issues, our experience at dealing with the issues, or work with you to provide you with a firm, fixed price for taking care of the problem for you – in its entirety. There is, of course, no cost or obligation once we deliver our proposal to you . . . but when you compare what Plexus-NSD offers to the cost and effort of doing nothing or completing the work using in-house resources, we believe you will be pleasantly surprised.