BTEX is an acronym of benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene and xylenes. NORM are Naturally Occurring Radioactive Materials. TENORM is the term for Technologically Enhanced Naturally Occurring Radioactive Materials. They are naturally occurring hazardous and radioactive substances that are mobilised during the fracking process and brought to the surface in fracking waste known as flowback.
BTEX compounds are some of the volatile organic compounds (VOCs) found in petroleum derivatives. Benzene is a known carcinogen. Toluene, ethylbenzene and xylenes have harmful effects on the central nervous system.
The use of BTEX as an additive during drilling and fracking is banned in most mainland states. Mineral Resources Tasmania has confirmed that BTEX will not be used in fracking operations in Tasmania. However BTEX is naturally present in our geology, and even though it is banned as an additive, fracking releases BTEX from its safety at depth and brings it to the surface in flowback water. Banning BTEX does nothing to control its release into the environment.
In 2014 the EPA tested samples from AGL's Waukivory Project near Gloucester in NSW and found BTEX in two wells and in an aboveground water storage tank. One sample showed highly elevated BTEX, at a concentration of 555 parts per billion, while other samples were in the range of 12 to 70 parts per billion.
NORM (which includes radium, thorium and uranium) are common in oil and gas drilling waste, and especially in brine, the dirty water that has been soaking in the shale for centuries. Radium, a potent carcinogen, is among the most dangerous of these metals because it:
- gives off radon gas
- accumulates in plants and vegetables
- takes 1,600 years to decay
TENORM are Technologically Enhanced Naturally Occurring Radioactive Materials. The extraction process concentrates these naturally occurring radionuclides and exposes them to the surface environment and human contact.
Shale and tight gas formations lie much deeper underground than CSG, and because of the greater drilling depths required to reach these reservoirs, the risk of human exposure to NORM and TENORM is increased. Some jurisdictions require their employees to be certified in the handling of radioactive materials.