Geologic, Geochemical and Geographic Controls on Norm in Produced Water From Texas Oil, Gas, and Geothermal Reservoirs

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Water from Texas oil, gas, and geothermal wells contains natural radioactivity that ranges from several hundred to several thousand picocuries per liter (pCi/L). This natural radioactivity in produced fluids and the scale that forms in producing and processing equipment can lead to increased concerns for worker safety and additional costs for handling and disposing of water and scale.

Naturally occurring radioactive materials (NORM) in oil and gas operations are mainly caused by concentrations of radium-226 (226Ra) and radium-228 (228Ra), daughter products of uranium-238 (238U) and thorium-232 (232Th), respectively, in barite scale. We examined (1) the geographic distribution of high NORM levels in oil-producing and gas-processing equipment, (2) geologic controls on uranium (U), thorium (Th), and radium (Ra) in sedimentary basins and reservoirs, (3) mineralogy of NORM scale, (4) chemical variability and potential to form barite scale in Texas formation waters, (5) Ra activity in Texas formation waters, and (6) geochemical controls on Ra isotopes in formation water and barite scale to explore natural controls on radioactivity. Our approach combined extensive compilations of published data, collection and analyses of new water samples and scale material, and geochemical modeling of scale precipitation and Ra incorporation in barite.


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