It has been established that Naturally Occurring Radioactive Materials (NORM) may accumulate in the oil/gas production process. This can create a radiation hazard for workers, the general public and the environment if adequate controls are not established.
Regulations and guidelines on radiation protection in general, and NORM in particular, have been issued by various National and International entities, however, these are not specific to the oil and gas industry, and do not provide clear and concise guidelines to enable NORM to be managed effectively.
The International Association of Oil and Gas Producers (OGP) established a task force, headed by Saudi Aramco, to develop NORM Management Guidelines. This task was completed after research, review and thorough consideration of most available NORM regulations, and the industry's current best practices in NORM management. The OGP guidelines offer a simple and logical method of managing NORM impacted operations that are flexible enough to be implemented across the industry.
This paper outlines major aspects of OGP NORM management guidelines and elaborates on key issues related to the management of NORM in the oil and gas industry, in particular on NORM monitoring, control of NORM contaminated equipment, managing NORM waste handling and disposal, and worker protection, awareness and training.
Naturally Occurring Radioactive Material (NORM) is a byproduct waste of oil production and its presence in pipelines, plant and machinery may cause restriction of operability and potential radiological health hazards.
Workers who are required to work with plant or equipment, which is NORM contaminated, have a potential for external radiation exposure from closed systems during normal operations, and internal exposure if no controls are established during shutdowns and periods where systems are opened. Equipment contaminated with NORM cannot be released for sale or disposal without being decontaminated and verified free of NORM contamination.
Waste material contaminated with enhanced levels of NORM is required to be disposed of in a controlled manner to ensure it does not provide an unacceptable risk to the environment and the general public.
Various national and international regulations and guidance on radiation protection in general, and NORM in particular, exist. These are not specific to the oil and gas industry, and there are variations in the methods of control adopted. The International Association of Oil and Gas Producers (OGP) guidelines were developed after research, review and thorough consideration of most available NORM regulations and guidance to determine best practice for managing NORM in oil and gas facilities. The result is an overall strategy for the management of NORM, which was scrutinized and successfully applied by a major oil company. The strategy can be utilized throughout the industry by oil companies and support organizations alike.