Dilemma in Marcellus Shale: How To Dispose of Radioactive Oil and Gas WasteSource: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette | 15 October 2014
A few months ago, a Marcellus Shale operator approached Leong Ying, business development manager at the radiation measurement division of Thermo Fisher Scientific, with a problem.
The driller, whom Ying declined to name, was trying to dispose of oil and gas waste at area landfills but the trucks kept tripping radiation alarms.
Rejected trucks had to be sent back to well pads or taken out of state, both costly options. It was happening enough that it started nudging the company’s bottom line, Ying said.
“Once you hit them in the pocket, then they stand up and take notice,” he said.
Ying’s company is marketing a new radiation detector that can instantly categorize the different types of radioactive materials present in waste and their concentrations.
Today, the most likely solution to deal with radioactive oil and gas waste is to dilute it with nonradioactive materials, such as soil, and then send it to local landfills.
Ying said his client has built a multimillion-dollar facility specifically designed to treat such waste using a reverse osmosis process, which separates the water from the solids, where the radioactivity is concentrated. Those solids are then either spread out across truck loads, diluted, and disposed of at local landfills or taken to specialty facilities.
In the first half of this year, 421 trucks carrying oil and gas waste tripped radiation alarms at Pennsylvania landfills, according to the state Department of Environmental Protection. All but two of those trucks eventually dumped their waste at those landfills.