Alternative Nuclear-based Technologies to Mitigate Risks of Radionuclide Well Logging Sources: Their advantages and challenges
Presented by: Ahmed Badruzzaman Pacific Consultants and Engineers and University of California, Berkeley
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Radioisotope-based nuclear logging tools are critical for reservoir characterization and related completion and production decisions. But these sources are small, mobile and often used in politically unstable regions of the world. Thus, they and similar sealed sources pose the risk of being utilized in a radiological dispersal device (RDD), despite their lower radioactivity content relative to sources used in other industries and the multiple layers of protective features built-in. This concern was heightened by the tragedy of 9/11, recent stolen/missing source incidents, attempts at malevolent use, and existence of a black-market on sources. Consequently, in addition to decades-long industry effort to develop non-nuclear and nuclear-based alternative logging technologies, governments, international agencies, and national labs are actively assessing measures and technologies to mitigate risks of such sources.
The presentation briefly surveys recent source incidents, associated risks, and approaches being assessed to mitigate these risks: use of alternatives, electronic tagging of sources, and use of enhanced security protocols. It then examines in some detail the state of switchable nuclear source-based alternatives recently reported, namely, 1) D-T neutron generators to replace 241Am-Be sources in neutron porosity and mineralogy tools, wireline or LWD, and 2) two switchable alternatives to 137Cs-based density, the most accurate estimator of porosity. The latter are a LINAC X-ray wireline tool successfully tested in the 1980s, but not commercialized, and an interpretation algorithm implemented in an LWD tool to utilize gamma-rays from inelastic interactions of high-energy neutrons from a D-T generator. The latter concept, denoted as inelastic n-gamma density (INGD) or as "sourceless" density by some, was initially developed in the 1990s as a cased-hole density indicator. Results of nuclear alternatives, in general, have not been as accurate as those from radionuclide sources. The talk discusses the underlying physics causes of the inaccuracies, the resulting tool design and petrophysical interpretation complexities, and the ongoing effort to address these, including research on novel generators with the potential to directly replace 241Am-Be and 137Cs sources. The talk will conclude by briefly exploring implications for the industry of the mitigation approaches being deliberated and how it can participate in these efforts to help set the direction of nuclear logging for years to come.
Ahmed Badruzzaman has spent over 30 years studying downhole nuclear techniques for both characterization and monitoring during his tenure at Chevron Energy Technology, Sandia National Laboratories, and Schlumberger-Doll Research. He developed and taught a graduate course on the subject from 2001-2009 at University of California, Berkeley. In addition, he has studied nuclear power reactors, small energy systems for developing societies, and energy/ climate issues. He has been the primary industry discussant on logging source safety challenges and their mitigation. Currently a consultant at Pacific Consultants and Engineers in California, he provides consultation to the US Department of Energy on these topics. He was an official reviewer of the 2008 U.S. National Academy of Science report to Congress, Radiation Source Use and Replacement. During 2011-2012, he was a consultant to the International Atomic Energy Agency on their draft source safety guide, Radiation Protection and Safety in Well Logging,currently under review for international deployment. He has just been selected by the USDOE to be the Technical Lead of their Scoping Study Team on potential alternatives to radionuclide logging tools.
Ahmed holds a Ph. D in Nuclear Engineering and Science from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Troy, NY. He has authored over 40 papers, earned two US patents, received several professional society awards, and was elected a Fellow of the American Nuclear Society in 2004. He is the Chairman of SPWLA Nuclear Logging SIG, a past Distinguished Lecturer of SPE, and a past and current Distinguished Speaker of SPWLA. Ahmed is a past editor of Petrophysics, a former chair of SPE Distinguished Lecturer Committee, and a former SPWLA VP of Publication. He is a Visiting Scholar at University California, Berkeley.