This paper will attempt to explain some of the mystery associated with Naturally Occurring Radioactive Materials (NORM) by describing what NORM is; how it is associated with oil and gas; what problems NORM may present; how it can be measured; and what current and pending regulations may affect how NORM contaminated equipment and soil can be handled. Unfortunately, at the present time the answers to the last item are by no means definitive. In fact, the answers in dealing with NORM will be an evolutionary process shaped by regulatory agencies, industry and the public. But first, let's discuss what NORM is.
Naturally Occurring Radioactive Materials, otherwise known as NORM, represent a wide range of radioactive isotopes, including such elements as carbon 14 and potassium 40. Both of which are present in the human body. However, the main radioactive elements of concern in oil and gas production are those found throughout the earths crust and specifically are present in the formations from which oil and gas are produced. These elements include Uranium and Thorium and their respective daughter products including Radon gas. Yes, this is the same radon gas that may be present in your home and is receiving all the attention from the media and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as a leading cause of lung cancer deaths. The presence of these materials in oil and gas operations has been known practically since we first learned about radioactive materials. However, it was not until the early 1980's that NORM became recognized as a potential problem. To see where we are today with the NORM issue, it's a good idea to look at the beginning.