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Sulfate-Reducing Bacteria Release Barium and Radium from Naturally Occurring Radioactive Material in Oil-Field Barite

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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 226Ra 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 LZK1, 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 226Ra 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.
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Document Type: Regular Paper

Affiliations: 1: U.S. Geological Survey Water Resources Division Reston, Virginia, USA 2: U.S. Geological Survey Geologic Division Denver, Colorado, USA

Publication date: 2001-04-01

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