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The AAPG/Datapages Combined Publications Database

AAPG Bulletin


Volume: 24 (1940)

Issue: 9. (September)

First Page: 1529

Last Page: 1547

Title: Radioactivity of Sedimentary Rocks and Associated Petroleum

Author(s): K. G. Bell (2), Clark Goodman (3), W. L. Whitehead (3)


Determinations of the radioactivity of 21 sedimentary rocks and 7 associated crude oils have been made by the precision method developed by R. D. Evans. The specimens consisted of cuttings and cores from wells in the Bartlesville, Cromwell, Frio, Woodbine, and Viola-Simpson formations. Considerable variability in radioactivity was found in the sandstones (1.4 to 0.19×10-12 gms. Ra/gm.) and limestones (1.3 to 0.18×10-12 gms. Ra/gm.). The radium content of limestones decreases with increasing purity. The shales were uniform (1.2 to 1.0×10-12 gms. Ra/gm.). Apparently, discrete mineral particles in sandstone and impurities in limestone account for their occasional high radioactivity. The radon content of the crude oils (0.47 to .05×-12 curies/gm. of oil) was in one sample 38 times, and averaged 10 times, the amount in equilibrium with the radium present. The results corroborate the inferences of former investigators that radon tends to concentrate in crude oils. Maximum radon content and maximum ratio of radon to radium were found in petroleum produced from a permeable, Oligocene (Frio) sandstone of high radioactivity. Cracking of hydrocarbons with generation of hydrogen has been proved by S. C. Lind to result from bombardment with alpha rays. The amounts of radioactivity found in these crude oils are quantitatively sufficient to cause appreciable cracking by alpha radiation during geologic time. These reactions, together with subsequent hydrogenation, may account for important changes in petrol um. This hypothesis would also explain the presence of hydrogen in some natural gases. The hydrogen content of soil gases is suggested as a possible method of geochemical prospecting for oil fields.

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