This article, written by JPT Technology Editor Chris Carpenter, contains highlights of paper OTC 31985, “Reducing HSE Risks Through Automation and Closed-Loop Systems,” by Simon Smith, Olof Nilsson, SPE, and Aksel Skåland, SPE, FourPhase. The paper has not been peer reviewed. Copyright 2022 Offshore Technology Conference. Reproduced by permission.

Solids production in produced fluids is an industrywide challenge, incurring major costs to operators through lost production, asset integrity, and well-intervention campaigns. The complete paper highlights solids-management technologies that are currently available and still in use topside (and some of which are potentially outdated). It also identifies the amount of exposure to hazardous byproducts of produced oil and gas from these various technologies.

The complete paper also presents a new-technology case study and compares this with legacy methods and practices in terms of health, safety, and environment (HSE) risk and cost.

Naturally Occurring Radioactive Materials (NORM)

NORM can be divided into sources that originate from the ground and those produced from the interaction of atmospheric gases with cosmic rays. The risks associated with NORM, and the solutions available to manage those risks, are not widely known in the industry. The complete paper focuses on 3 NORM, which originate from the ground. The paper further details the characteristics of benzene and hydrogen sulfide, two other hazardous materials often encountered in solids-handling within the industry.

NORM Hazards. - The hazardous elements found in NORM are radionuclides such as radium 226 and 228, radon 222, and daughter products from these radionuclides. The concentration of radium and other daughter products builds up in the body over time. The elements can migrate to bone tissue and concentrate, causing bone cancers, lymphoma, leukemia, and other serious medical conditions. Employers should always prioritize minimization of exposure of their offshore personnel.

NORM in the Oil and Gas Industry. - Scale may build up over time from naturally occurring radium and its daughter products in wellbores, pipes, and vessels. Isotopes build and radiate differently depending on the reservoir rock and salinity of the well. Because a correlation usually exists between the age of a well and salinity (which increases with age), old wells seem to carry higher NORM levels than younger wells.

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