Oil & Natural Gas Projects
Exploration and Production Technologies
Evaluations of Radionucides of Uranium, Thorium, and Radium Associated with
Produced Fluids, Precipitates, and Sludges from Oil, Gas, and Oilfield Brine Injection
Wells in Mississippi
This project was selected in response to DOE's Oil Exploration and Production
solicitation DE-PS26-01NT41048, focus area Effective Environmental Protection.
The goal of the program was to reduce compliance costs and improve environmental
performance by providing lower-cost technologies and/or sound scientific bases
for cost-effective, risk-based regulatory decisions.
The goal of the project was to produce baseline, scientifically defensible information
regarding the radionuclides contained in produced waters and scales associated
with hydrocarbon production in Mississippi.
Mississippi Mineral Resources Institute Department of Geology and Geological
Engineering Department of Pharmacology University of Mississippi University,
Rick Ericksen, Consultant Ridgeland, MS
The project produced the most comprehensive data set regarding the radioactive
materials produced by hydrocarbon production in Mississippi. The amounts of
radioactive elements in the produced waters and scales were identified, concentrations
and distributions determined, and suggestions made to industry as how to best
manage these radiation concerns in an environmentally responsible manner.
A lack of information regarding the production of radioactive materials from
hydrocarbon production in Mississippi was a concern that was problematic to
the industry. Legal and regulatory actions were proceeding without the necessary
knowledge base from which to make responsible decisions. This project has produced
a set of information from which meaningful decisions can be made by government
agencies. This project also removes much of the misinformation about radioactive
materials in exploration and production operations that had been circulating
prior to completion of the project. The public now has a set of defensible information
from which it can make reasonable decisions or express its concerns.
The project also has allowed academia and the hydrocarbon industry to work
jointly to determine the best manner in which these radiation concerns can be
mitigated. A set of elements of best practices was produced, in consultation
with industry, for use by the industry.
The presence of radionuclides resulting from hydrocarbon production has a controversial
history in Mississippi. A lack of Mississippi-specific information regarding
the radioactive concerns associated with production had allowed misinformation
and incomplete data to be used inappropriately. The industry had little information
to defend its position, a lack addressed by this project. The project produced
defensible information that can be used by governmental agencies to access the
need for regulations as well as by the public to judge environmental risks verses
the value of hydrocarbon production.
The project yielded these conclusions:
- Low concentrations of radionuclides (radium 226 and 228) in all produced
waters were identified, but scale production-which is dependent on other ions-is
not uniformly distributed across the state.
- Production from the Mississippi Interior Salt Basin is most likely to produce
- Leaching experiments suggest that small quantities of radionuclides from
the scales can become bioavailable through a combination of cation exchange
and microbial activity in common soils.
This project consisted of both field and laboratory activities. Brines and
scales were sampled from various fields and prepared for lab determination of
their radioactive content. The results of the lab analysis were data-based and
used to investigate any potential correlations among brine chemistry, producing
reservoir, and radionuclide content. The database also was used to examine the
spatial relationships between production and radionuclide content.
All of these data were used, in consultation with industry, to construct a
set of elements of best practices for those in the industry who must deal with
Current Status (October 2005)
Since completion of the project, the emphasis has been to identify an economically
viable means of disposing of radioactive scales. Significant interest has been
identified in the environmental industry to identify such a methodology.
Swann, C.T., Ericksen, Rick, Kuszmaul, Joel, and Matthews, J.C., 2004, Evaluations
of radionuclides of uranium, thorium, and radium associated with produced fluids,
precipitates, and sludges from oil, gas, and oilfield brine injection wells
in Mississippi: Final Technical Report, submitted to the U.S. Department of
Energy, 93 p.
Project Start: April 22, 2002
Project End: December 31, 2003
Anticipated DOE Contribution: $202,962
Performer Contribution: $50,881 (20% of total)
NETL - John Ford (email@example.com or 918-699-2061)
U. of Mississippi - Charles Swann (firstname.lastname@example.org or 662-915-7320)
View of a typical oilfield sampling site in the Black Warrior Basin of Mississippi.
Map showing the major geologic trends, oil and gas production areas, and project
sampling locations in Mississippi.