Oil Industry and Radiation Exposure

Oil Industry and Radiation Exposure

 Petroleum and oil exploration have usually been associated with the bi-product of combustion contaminants and greenhouse gases such as CO2, but a little known fact is that petroleum exploration can expose many of the workers to radiation. The oil industry has serious potential issues with radiation, particularly regarding the workers’ exposure and even when the risk is confined to oil camps and oil processing facilities. The exposure to potential radiation may include people in the camps who live near oil exploration and processing facilities.

The source of radiation in the oil industry is regarded to NORM materials (Naturally Occurring Radioactive Materials) usually present on small amounts of the Earth’s cortex. NORM materials are responsible for part of the natural background radiation. One of the most common minerals conforming the NORM materials is radium, a radioactive mineral extensively present in petroleum fields.

On the other hand, the oil industry makes extensive use of both open and closed sources of radiation on all the activities such as non-destructive testing/radiography testing of pipes, use of radioactive source instruments for level indication, density measurement, etc. It is clear that both the oil and gas industry as well petroleum based chemicals involve a real risk of exposure to ionizing radiation coming from both natural and manmade sources; therefore, it should be a priority to take proper actions in order to avoid not only environmental contamination but also personnel exposure to hazardous levels of radiation[1].

Is every worker of the oil and gas industry exposed to the same risk?

Even when working on NORM contamination areas, oil workers are considered to be in the same category as the general public. This means that that they are exposed to radiation less than 1 mSv/year[2]. Duties that include pipe inspection and wireline activities will most likely require training and the wearing of radiation monitoring badges due to the increased risk of being exposed to radioactive materials.[3].

Despite the real risk of exposure, petroleum workers are divided on two main categories: those exposed to high NORM materials (natural source) where a radiation badge is recommended but not mandatory. Obviously those working with manmade radiation sources should always be badged and monitored. According to current regulations, the use of radiation badges is not mandatory for most workers in the oil industry. Individuals concerned about his or her safety regarding radiation exposure should consider wearing a radiation monitoring badge as a way to measure the exposure to ionizing radiation.

Protecting both the employees’ health and future litigation towards the company, radiation badges can offer a solution for both issues. While maintaining lifetime records for employees can deter frivolous lawsuits, it can also show whether or not there are real dangers to the employees. Oil and gas workers that follow ALARA practices and use proper dosimeter badges are taking appropriate measures to prevent exposure to radiation. Visit www.med-pro.net to order your radiation detection badges.

[1] http://aihce2015.org/course/radiation-safety-in-the-oil-and-gas-industry/

[2] https://www.nde-ed.org/EducationResources/CommunityCollege/RadiationSafety/safe_use/exposure.htm

[3] http://www.normsolutions.com/norm-solutions/

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