Oil and gas: Protect petroleum workers from radioactive material with personal dosimeter

The oil and gas industry is responsible for the release and exposure to radioactivity of radioactive materials from extraction, drilling, fracturing and production activities. Oil and gas production involves the use of various types of radiation, including gamma rays, X-rays and neutrons. Some of these emissions are potentially hazardous to health and the environment. Personal electronic dosimeters are used to properly monitor employee exposure to radioactivity.

In this article, we will discuss the sources of radioactive emissions in oil and gas production and how they are monitored. We will also look at some of the safety measures that are in place to protect workers from exposure to these harmful emissions.

Protection against radioactivity in the oil and gas industry

Protection against radioactivity in the oil and gas industry

The oil and gas industry is always looking for ways to improve efficiency while maintaining a high standard of safety, regardless of the harsh climate conditions or environmental challenges.

The oil & gas industry has several sectors, which include the construction, exploration, production, downstream and marketing sectors : the construction sector is responsible for manufacturing and fabricating facilities and equipment, the exploration sector for finding and evaluating new resources, and the production sector for developing and exploiting commercially viable oil and gas fields.

Even though petroleum and oil exploration have usually been associated with the bi-product of combustion contaminants, such as CO2 or greenhouse gases (GHGs), it is often forgotten that these same processes can expose many workers to radiation.

People living near oil exploration and processing facilities risk exposure to potential radioactivity through radioactive elements, and may be vulnerable to the harmful effects of radiation. Strict controls must be put in place to protect both employees and the general public from exposure to novice radiation, as well as radioactive waste or hazardous chemical waste.

Oil and gas companies are heavily dependent on companies specializing in services and the supply of equipment and expertise, such as industrial radiography, which includes radiation protection. The professional radiation protection advisor (CRP) is responsible, within the organization, for supervising work involving ionizing radiation.

What are the sources of radiation in the oil & gas industry?

The oil & gas industry uses a variety of radiation sources, including naturally occurring radioactive materials (NORM) and non-destructive testing (NDT).

Naturally occurring radioactive material (NORM)

What are the sources of radiation in the oil & gas industry?

NORM (Naturally Occurring Radioactive Material) is naturally present in reservoir rock formations and oil wells. Radiation levels in NORM materials are often due to radium, a radioactive material found abundantly in oil fields. Radioactive materials travel along with the produced water and oil, reaching the surface water or groundwater.

Then, this NORM goes through the topside plant and downstream equipment where the flow of liquids and solids is controlled by the Christmas trees at high-static-pressure and then finally to the entire production process offshore platforms, FPSOs.

radioactive material

When the material is processed, the NORM radiation can accumulate in down holes tubing, wellheads, production manifolds, production pipelines, processing equipment like separators, filters, or safety valves, water outlets, and sludge tanks during the oil extraction process. These concentrated radioactive deposits represent a risk during production, maintenance and decommissioning.

Additionally, the oil industry extensively uses both open and closed radiation sources for activities such as non-destructive testing and industrial radiography, use of radioactive sources for level indication, density measurement, and gauging sensors.

Non-destructive testing (NDT)

Non-destructive testing (NDT)

Non-destructive testing (NDT) is a set of X-ray techniques and tools used to assess the properties of materials, components or systems, without causing damage. These techniques are widely used in the oil & gas industry for X-ray inspection of welds on pipelines and storage tanks. Non-destructive testing (NDT) and industrial radiography using X-ray equipment involve the use of radioactive elements such as cobalt-60 or cesium-137 to search for defects in pipelines.

Overall, radioactive sources have become increasingly important in the oil and gas industry as they offer an efficient and cost-effective means of detection and quality control.

In addition, the oil and gas industry extensively uses radioactive materials, sealed sources, and radiation generators that produce radioactive waste. This results in the production of various solid and liquid wastes, contaminated items, and decontamination wastes containing naturally occurring radioactive material (NORM).

To ensure the safety of oil & gas employees and the public, strict regulations must be followed. The Radiation Protection Competent Person (RCP) program can provide advice and guidance on the best means of protecting workers from radioactivity.

How to protect oil and gas workers from ionizing radiation?

How to protect oil and gas workers from ionizing radiation?

There are 3 ways to protect oil and gas workers from ionizing emissions.

Using radiation protection instruments

Whereas petroleum workers are exposed to high NORM materials during pipe inspection or to sources during NDT radiography activities, it is recommended to wear the radiation monitoring badge to measure the dose rate exposure.

use of radiation monitoring devices

Protect your employees with Electronic Personal Dosimeter

For external exposure to penetrating radiation emitted by sources outside the human body, electronic personal dosimeters also known as EPDs are part of operational dosimetry and used to measure the potential external exposure and indicate the cumulative external exposure. The radiation badges are able to measure transient dose rates that change rapidly in real-time and can also register the total dose of radiation that the oil and gas workers accumulate over time.

choose a versatile dosimeter

These personal dosimeters need to be robust, hard-wearing, portable, lightweight and equipped with sensitive detectors like Fuji Electric's EPD electronic personal dosimeter .

It is necessary to choose a dosimeter that is versatile, suitable and effective for different types of specific tasks. Radiation protection equipment must be capable of measuring low-dose-rate gamma rays, for example for monitoring sludge returns, as well as the high-dose-rate range fields that can arise in certain accidental situations, such as emergencies involving the recovery of an unprotected X-ray source.

Employees likely to be exposed to high levels of radiation, as in industrial radiography, must also wear a real-time dosimeter. The active dosimeter must be attached to your clothing at all times. These dosimeters trigger an alarm that lets wearers know when they are receiving a high dose of radiation and take countermeasures for their safety.

The neutron sources used in well logging typically emit both gamma and neutron radiations. Individuals need to wear a radiation monitoring device like the modern Fuji Electric NRF51 personal dosimeter that can measure both gamma and neutron with a single measurement instrument.

Following ALARA principles

These three simple rules of the ALARA principle can help reduce exposure to radioactivity from external sources:

Radiation protection training for oil and gas workers

Radiation protection training for oil and gas workers

Furthermore, those who work directly with ionizing radiation and are not trained in the field should still be competent enough to carry out their responsibilities if needed. This is especially important for people whose main qualifications come from other disciplines, such as diving.

We must provide others with information who are not directly involved but could still be affected by the work in some way, and give them the details or specific instructions they need to minimize their possible exposure.

These individuals could be affected by the work in one way or another. It is therefore essential to give them specific details or instructions. This information will enable them to minimize any possible exposure.

The intensity of the instruction needs to be appropriate for those with different levels of experience, and this will include people like qualified experts and radiation protection officers. Other people who might be included are workers who are occupationally exposed to radioactive elements on a regular basis, general office or plant workers, and any other individuals.

Before training begins, trainers need to be fully conversant with the technologies to be used, as well as the company's procedures and environment.

Protect your oil and gas workers from radioactivity

Protect your oil and gas workers from radioactivity with a personal electronic dosimeter

In this article, we've looked at the different types of radiation present in the oil & gas field, natural radiation sources such as NORMs, and the open and closed radiation sources found in industrial radiography equipment. Some of these radioactive materials are potentially hazardous to health and the environment, especially if not properly managed.

things to remember about radiation monitoring

The oil and gas industry must demonstrate that appropriate measures are in place to regulate radiation exposure, manage environmental contamination and dispose of waste to ensure safe working practices. To ensure the radiological health, safety and well-being of workers, the public and the environment, as well as their protection from radioactivity, all operators of oil and gas facilities using radioactive sources must have a radiation protection program in place.

An electronic personal dosimeter can protect both the employees’ health and future litigation towards the company. Maintaining records of employee radiation exposure can both prevent frivolous lawsuits and identify potential dangers to employees. Oil and gas workers who adhere toALARA principles;and carry the proper dosimeter badges are preventing themselves from exposure to radiation.

Choose safe, reliable instruments for your oil & gas application today!