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NORM in the East Midlands' oil and gas producing region of the UK

Garner, Joel, Cairns, James and Read, David (2015) NORM in the East Midlands' oil and gas producing region of the UK Journal of Environmental Radioactivity, 150. pp. 49-56.

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Naturally occurring radioactive material (NORM) is a common feature in North Sea oil and gas production offshore but, to date, has been reported from only one production site onshore in the United Kingdom. The latter, Wytch Farm on the Dorset coast, revealed high activity concentrations of 210Pb in metallic form but little evidence of radium accumulation. NORM has now been discovered at two further onshore sites in the East Midlands region of the UK. The material has been characterized in terms of its mineralogy, bulk composition and disequilibrium in the natural uranium and thorium series decay chains. In contrast to Wytch Farm, scale and sludge samples from the East Midlands were found to contain elevated levels of radium and radioactive progeny associated with crystalline strontiobarite. The highest 226Ra and 228Ra activity concentrations found in scale samples were 132 and 60 Bq/g, with mean values of 86 and 40 Bq/g respectively; somewhat higher than the mean for the North Sea and well above national exemption levels for landfill disposal. The two East Midlands sites exhibited similar levels of radioactivity. Scanning electron microscope imaging shows the presence of tabular, idiomorphic and acicular strontiobarite crystals with elemental mapping confirming that barium and strontium are co-located throughout the scale. Bulk compositional data show a corresponding correlation between barium-strontium concentrations and radium activity. Scales and sludge were dated using the 226Ra/210Pb method giving mean ages of 2.2 and 3.7 years, respectively. The results demonstrate clearly that these NORM deposits, with significant radium activity, can form over a very short period of time. Although the production sites studied here are involved in conventional oil recovery, the findings have direct relevance should hydraulic fracturing for shale gas be pursued in the East Midlands oilfield.

Item Type: Article
Divisions : Faculty of Engineering and Physical Sciences > Chemistry
Authors :
Garner, Joel
Cairns, James
Date : December 2015
DOI : 10.1016/j.jenvrad.2015.07.016
Depositing User : Karen Garland
Date Deposited : 26 Sep 2018 13:37
Last Modified : 26 Sep 2018 13:37

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