The way they find shale is to look for the most radioactive sedimentary layer of rock in a well log. When the meter spikes, you’ve hit shale. It’s that easy. If the reading is any higher, you’ve hit a vein of uranium. Congratulations. Your lucky day.
When they drill a horizontal lateral through that shale, they are effectively mining miles of radium, uranium and strontium 90 – meaning a tons of radioactive material is removed with the drill cuttings. Everyone in the oil and gas industry over the age of 19 knows this. Unless of course, you’re a Texas Aggie, in which case an MA or Phd. may be required. Drill cuttings are the most likely source of radioactive waste from a horizontal shale site. Miles of horizontal drill cuttings. Tons of cuttings. If there is anything hotter there, it’s liable to be a Nukler FrackStik. Best stand back, pardner.
Those drill cuttings can be so radioactive that they have to be classified by the DOT as hazardous radioactive material, as the following memo describes. A trucker that is not permitted and equipped to carry radioactive material cannot truck it on public roads. And a landfill that is not permitted to take radioactive waste cannot take it. And so they don’t. They reject it and send it back to the driller.
Which is what some landfills in New York and Ohio are doing; “Here’re your radioactive drill cuttings back, Tex. Good luck finding a new home for it. Have a nice day.”
In a report we wrote in a DEC case concerning expansion of the Chemung County solid waste land fill to accept rock cuttings from Pennsylvania we cited a USGS study and gamma logs from drilling companies as proof that Ra-226 concentrations ranged up to 30 pCi/g. Recent measurements by DEC, with Ra-226 concentrations up to 206 pCi/g, along with high radiation reading sat the MAX landfill in PA, show that our upper range assumptions were apparently too low.
These Ra-226 concentrations by DEC at the Allied landfill (which rejected truck and carloads of drill cuttings from Cabot coming out of Pennsylvania) have major implications for landfill disposal in New York State, Pennsylvania and Ohio.
Meaning the miles of drill cuttings from horizontal Marcellus shale wells are too hot to handle. That’s for openers. The fracking flowback leached out of the shale is the second most likely source of radioactive frack waste from shale gas industrialization – particularly if it is recycled. If they recycle the frack flowback from radioactive shale, they are doubling the radioactivity of the flowback. Clever, eh ? When they process that flowback to remove the water they are left with a radioactive sludge – which, like the radioactive shale drill cuttings may also be too hot to handle – except with special trucks that are properly insured to haul it (carefully !) to specially permitted landfills, that are prepared to babysit the fracking residue for 1,000 years or so. Have any landfills like that upstream from you ?
In Texas they don’t take this hot stuff into municipal landfills. We may be the descendants of a bunch of sociopaths that couldn’t cut it in Mississippi, but we’re not that stupid. In Texas, they dump it down a Class II EPA disposal well and hope that it does not show up in someone’s water supply in our lifetime. Which, alas, is not the case.
The last potential source for radioactive contamination is radon. And the most likely way for radon to be a problem is in the field. Radon is particularly hazardous where the liquids (propane, ethane, butane) are removed from the raw gas. Because the radon can piggyback along with the propane in the separation process – and expose workers at gas separation facilities. If the radon is properly stripped from the raw gas, it is vented from those facilities – and since it sinks – it can settle downslope or downwind to anyone living nearby, effectively gassing them.
Make a mental note to yourself – don’t live downslope or downwind from a gas processing plant or field gas compressor station. If you do, invest in a gas mask. It might be well worth it.
This paper is a summary of some of the fracking radioactive problems faced in Ohio – few of which the state or the feds are equipped to deal with effectively. Leaving that state awash in not only its own own fracking radioactive waste – but radioactive frackwaste from as far away as New York.
Speaking of New York – the legislature attempted to ban the importation of nuclear frack waste from out of state – and the “Independent Democratic Caucus” never let it out of committee.
So New York gets a 1,000 Year Supply of Radioactive Frackwaste. And the Chinese get the gas free of radioactive contamination ! Such a deal !
Let’s review the basics:
1. The way you find shale on a well log is by its radioactive signature :
2. Horizontal drilling removes miles/tons of drill cuttings from the most radioactive layer.
3. Shale gas industrial processes concentrate radioactive material
4. Then you have to get rid of that radioactive waste. Forever.