Texas Department of State Health Services via Bloomberg
A device similar to the missing radioactive probe is shown.
Halliburton Co. (HAL) is scouring a 130- mile swath of West Texas oil fields for a lost seven-inch cylinder with radioactive material used when drilling natural- gas wells by hydraulic fracturing, or fracking.
Pickup trucks outfitted with detection gear retraced the route of a vehicle that carried the radioactive rod before it was reported missing on Sept. 11, the Houston-based company told the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. The trucks drove at 10 miles an hour between Pecos, where the device was previously used on a well, and Odessa without finding the unit, according to an NRC incident report today.
“It’s not something that produces radiation in an extremely dangerous form,” Chris Van Deusen, a spokesman for the Texas Department of State Health Services, said in an interview. “But it’s best for people to stay back, 20 or 25 feet” if they find a cylinder marked “radioactive — do not handle,” he said.
JUST hold on a minute here! They tell John Q. Public that ‘fracking’ materials are NOT dangerous. Then they report this?!
Oil-field service companies lower the radioactive units into wells to let workers identify places to break apart rock for a drilling process known as hydraulic fracturing, which frees trapped oil and natural gas. While the loss of such a probe occurs from time-to-time, it has been years since a device with americium-241/beryllium, the material in Halliburton’s device, was misplaced in Texas, Van Deusen said.
Loss of a device of this type hasn’t been reported to the NRC within at least the last five years, Maureen Conley, an agency spokeswoman, said in an interview. She said the material would have to be in someone’s possession for several hours for it to be considered harmful. The agency was notified because it works with states to regulate use of radioactive materials.
Halliburton called the Reeves County sheriff’s office in Pecos after discovering the item was missing, police sergeant Jerry Millan said.
“They told us they had lost a radioactive rod,” he said in an interview. “I’ve worked in the oil fields, so I knew what it was. We’ve been assisting with the search.”
The seven-inch stainless-steel cylinder is about an inch in diameter and marked with the radiation-warning symbol, Halliburton said in a statement today.
Halliburton suspended the search at 3 a.m. today and plans to resume with more advanced tools, Millan said. The Texas State Health Services Department said it is also assisting in the search and plans to interview the workers on duty when the equipment was lost.