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Oil & Gas : Protect petroleum workers from radioactive material with personal dosimeter

The oil and gas industry is responsible for releasing radioactive materials through its extraction, drilling, fracking, 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 dangerous to human health and the environment. Electronic personal dosimeters are used to properly monitor workers' 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.

Oil & Gas Industry and Radiation Exposure

Oil & Gas Industry and Radiation ExposureThe 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 and environmental challenges.

The oil and 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 is responsible for finding and evaluating new resources, and the production sector is responsible 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.

Those who live near oil exploration and processing facilities may be at risk of exposure to potential radiation through radioactive substances and may be vulnerable to the harmful effects of radiation.

Strict controls must be implemented to protect both workers and the general public from harmful radiation exposure as well as radioactive waste or chemical hazardous waste.

Oil and gas companies are highly reliant on specialized service and supply companies to provide the necessary equipment and expertise like rt inspection (Radiographic Testing) which includes radiation safety.

The Radiation Protection Supervisor (RPS)  is responsible within the organization for the supervision of work involving ionizing radiation.


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

What-are-the-sources-of-radiation-in-the-oil-&-gas-industryThe oil and gas industry uses a variety of sources of radiation, including Naturally Occurring Radioactive Material (NORM) and non-destructive testing (NDT).

Naturally Occurring radioactive material (norm)

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 fluids and solids is controlled by the Christmas trees at high static pressure, and then finally to the entire production process offshore platforms, FPSOs. 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) is a set of techniques and radiography tools used to evaluate the properties of materials, components, or systems without causing damage. It is widely used across the oil and gas industry for x-ray weld inspection of pipelines and storage tanks. NDT (non-destructive testing) and radiography using industrial x-ray equipment involve the use of radioactive materials such as cobalt-60 or cesium-137 to test for flaws 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).

Since these materials and generators give off ionizing radiation, we need to take steps to protect workers and the general public from exposure to hazardous levels of radioactivity.
To ensure oil and gas workers and the public's safety, strict regulatory guidelines are followed. The Radiation Protection Advisory (RPA) scheme can provide advice and guidance on the best ways to protect workers from radioactive elements.


How to protect oil & gas workers from ionizing radiation

How to protect oil & gas workers from ionizing radiation?

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



Use radiation monitoring equipment

Use radiation monitoring equipment

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.

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. 

These personal radiation dosimeters need to be robust, rugged, portable, lightweight and with sensitive detectors like the Fuji Electric NRF series badge dosimeter.

There is a need to choose a versatile, suitable and efficient dose meter for different types of specific tasks. The radiation monitoring equipment must be capable of measuring low-dose-rate gamma radiation for monitoring mud returns for example and also high-dose-rate range fields that may appear in some accidental situations, such as emergency cases like recovering an unshielded radiography source.

Workers who could possibly be exposed to high levels of radiation such as when working in radiography, workers must also wear a direct reading dosimeter. The dosimeter for radiation should be clipped to your clothing at all times. Direct reading dosimeters sound an alarm to let wearers know when they're 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.

Follow ALARA Principles

These three simple rules can help reduce radioactivity exposure from external sources :

  1. Reducing the amount of time you spend exposed to the radiation;
  2. Maintaining a safe distance between NORM accumulation and people to prevent exposure.
  3. Maintaining a barrier between the NORM and people who could potentially come in contact with it.

Radiation Safety 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.

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 starting work, trainers must be well-versed in the technologies that will be used, as well as the procedures and surroundings.


Things to remember about protecting your petroleum workers from radiation with an electronic personal dosimeter (EPD)

ConclusionIn this article, we've looked at the different types of radiation that are present in the oil and gas industry, like the natural radiation sources like NORM and open and closed radiation sources found in industrial radiography equipment. Some of these radioactive materials are potentially dangerous to human health and to the environment if they are not properly managed.

The oil and gas sector needs to show that suitable measures are in place for regulating radiation, managing environmental contamination, and waste removal to ensure safe work practices. To ensure the radiological health, safety, and welfare of workers, the public, and the environment and protect them from the danger of radioactivity, all operators of oil and gas facilities that use 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 to ALARA principles and carry the proper dosimeter badges are preventing themselves from exposure to radiation.

Choose the right instruments for your oil & gas application today!