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Produced Water Guidance

Guidance for Research Using Produced Water at Oklahoma State University – Radiation Safety Awareness



All produced water samples should be analyzed by the Radiation Safety Office to determine if technologically enhanced naturally occurring radioactive material (TENORM) is present and, if so, at what levels, prior to beginning research work.


Call 405-744-7890 or email to schedule a time to drop off aliquots for LSC analysis and discuss number of samples required. Results are generally available the next business day, but may take up to 2-3 business days depending on workload.


OSU researchers will not be charged for this service.




Radioactive materials occur naturally in our environment, both from terrestrial and cosmic sources. These radiation sources are referred to as naturally occurring radioactive materials, or NORM, and are the source of background radiation levels.

There are some processes, such as those in the oil and gas industry, that result in insoluble materials from the ground, including NORM, being concentrated. This concentrated NORM is referred to as TENORM, or technologically enhanced naturally occurring radioactive materials.


At the current time, the State of Oklahoma does not regulate the use or disposal of NORM or TENORM. However, in doing our due diligence when produced water research has occurred, we have identified samples with levels of radiation ranging from 5X to more than 100X background levels. In these higher end cases there are many things to consider in determining exposure mitigation strategies.


OSU’s Radiation Safety Office will perform a liquid scintillation analysis of your produced water samples free of charge. The analysis is limited with regard to identification of radioactive isotopes but will be able to tell you the overall activity in the sample. This allows us to determine 1) if there is an exposure risk to those working with produced water samples, and 2) if the samples should be disposed of via a method other than sewer disposal.


Any mitigatory processes will be determined on a case-by-case basis. Further, when high levels of TENORM have been identified, these were short-lived radioisotopes that decayed to workable levels within a matter of days. There have been no samples identified that stopped research, but it is important for research groups to know what they are working with and the potential hazards that are inherent in their samples.

For questions or concerns, contact the Radiation Safety Office at, or 405-744-7890.

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