Natural background radiation is all around us. It comes from cosmic rays, from the air we breathe and the food and water we consume. It also comes from the earth’s crust – including the rocks that form oil and gas reservoirs.
As a result, during normal oil and gas operations, naturally occurring radionuclides can be brought to the surface along with hydrocarbons, water and other by-products. Where those radionuclides combine with other materials, such as mineral scales, they are referred to as Naturally Occurring Radioactive Materials (NORM).
NORM is not unique to the oil and gas industry. It is also found in other industrial processes, such as steel production and fertiliser manufacture. In some cases, NORM may require specialist monitoring and management.
To manage the risk that exposure to NORM may pose to people and the environment, the oil and gas industry has devised a range of controls to alert operators to the existence of NORM, as well as processes to deal with the risk if NORM is present.
A newly-published IOGP report provides a framework for NORM identification and management. It helps oilfield professionals to build awareness of NORM, engage with regulators and specialist contractors and manage risk appropriately.
Any work involving NORM, the report cautions, ‘requires the consultation and engagement of a number of stakeholders, notably the approval of the competent regulatory authorities.’
Copies of Managing Naturally Occurring Radioactive Material (NORM) in the oil and gas industry are freely available here.