Texas may call out the National Guard in the hunt for a seven-inch radioactive rod used in drilling natural-gas wells, lost this week by Halliburton Co. (HAL) somewhere in a 130-mile swath of the state’s western oil fields.
The Texas Department of State Health Services said yesterday it sought help from an Austin-based National Guard unit that has equipment to locate the radioactive item, which can pose a health risk if touched or held for several days. Halliburton lost the unit on Sept. 11, according to a report yesterday by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Pickup trucks with detection gear retraced the route of a vehicle that carried the radioactive rod before it was lost. The trucks drove at 10 miles an hour between Pecos, where the device was used on a well, and Odessa without finding the unit, the report said.
“It’s not something that produces radiation in an extremely dangerous form,” Chris Van Deusen, a spokesman for the health department, said in an interview. “But it’s best for people to stay back, 20 or 25 feet.”
Oil-field service companies lower the radioactive units into wells to let workers identify places to break apart rock for a drilling process known as hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, which frees trapped oil and natural gas. While the loss of such a probe occurs from time to time, it has been years since a device with americium-241/beryllium, the material in Halliburton’s device, was misplaced in Texas, Van Deusen said.
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