Scale and sludge deposits formed during oil production can contain elevated levels of Ra, often coprecipitated with barium sulfate (barite). The potential for sulfate-reducing bacteria to release 226 Ra and Ba (a Ra analog) from oil-field barite was evaluated. The concentration of dissolved Ba increased when samples containing pipe scale, tank sludge, or oil-field brine pond sediment were incubated with sulfate-reducing bacteria Desulfovibrio sp., Str LZKI, isolated from an oil-field brine pond. However, Ba release was not stoichiometric with sulfide production in oil-field samples, and <0.1% of the Ba was released. Potential for the release of 226Ra was demonstrated, and the 226 Ra release associated with sulfate-reducing activity was predictable from the amount of Ba released. As with Ba, only a fraction of the 226Ra expected from the amount of sulfide produced was released, and most of the Ra remained associated with the solid material.
Additional publication details
Sulfate-reducing bacteria release barium and radium from naturally occurring radioactive material in oil-field barite