Industry and small users

17.1.4 Oil and gas industry

Extensive oil and gas industrial activity takes place in the North Sea to the east and north east of Scotland. The main on-shore centre of the industry in Scotland is Aberdeen. Drilling and processing operations create waste sludges and films contaminating the drilling and processing equipment. These wastes contain naturally occurring radioactive materials (NORM). Although the levels of radioactivity (20-100 Bq/gm) are usually insufficient to cause concern to the health of workers exposed to them, or to the envi­ronment, precautions are taken to limit the build-up and accumulation of the wastes. The industry has a well-developed system of cleaning its pipe drilling strings, pipework, valves and other process equipment through the use of contractors.

The cleaning process, usually referred to as descaling, creates waste con­taining very low levels of radioactivity. This waste was routinely disposed of to sea near Aberdeen until 2011 when the licence was withdrawn. A facility was opened in October 2011 by a joint venture of SITA UK and Nuvia at Stoneyhill landfill site near Peterhead to process NORM. This facility cleans the NORM from the equipment by high pressure water jetting which is then encapsulated in cement in drums. The drums of cemented NORM are then disposed of under controlled conditions in the adjacent landfill facility which is operated by SITA UK (Sita, 2011).

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