Gas NORM Regulations

When does an oil and gas operator become a general licensee?

Anyone who mines, extracts, receives, possesses, owns, uses, processes, transports, stores, transfers for disposal, or recycles NORM is automatically a general licensee.

When does an oil and gas operator or its contractor need a specific license from the Texas Department of State Health Services?

Persons who are intentionally decontaminating facilities, land, or equipment owned, possessed, or controlled by others who treat or process NORM waste generated by others are required to have a specific license from the Texas Department of State Health Services for the activity. Persons who move their decontamination operations from site to site are not required to be licensed for each individual site.


Do regulations require NORM surveys of oil and gas facilities or equipment?

No, neither DSHS's §289.259 nor RRC's Subchapter F specifically require NORM surveys; however, operators are required to identify NORM-contaminated equipment with tags or markings. A NORM survey is necessary to make that determination.

Is a specific license needed to pump out tank bottoms from production vessels?

No, because removing tank bottoms from vessels is considered routine maintenance.

How long can NORM waste be stored?

No time limits on storage are included in §289.259.

Does land at a producing lease or facility that is found contaminated with NORM have to be decontaminated within a certain time?

Neither DSHS nor RRC regulations require that the land be decontaminated with a certain time; therefore, the operator may wait to decontaminate the land. Eventually, the land must be decontaminated before lease activities cease (plugged and abandoned). However, there may be other considerations that warrant a prompt decontamination of the site.

If soil is contaminated by NORM and by oil from a spill do the requirements of Rule 91 supersede those of Subchapter F?

No, the requirements of both rules must be met; however, land farming or land spreading may be a viable method to meet those requirements.

Is landowner approval needed before doing on-site disposal?

Subchapter F does not require that an operator seek the approval of the landowner before disposing of NORM waste that was generated on the same lease. However, the operator should be sure that the lease agreement does not preclude on-lease disposal of NORM.

What are the options to get rid of NORM-contaminated equipment?

  • If it is still usable, it can be used again for the same purpose (i.e. oil and gas production);
  • It can be decontaminated, then sold, recycled, dispose of, etc, like a waste not contaminated by NORM;
  • It can be recycled by delivering it to a scrap dealer provided that dealer will accept the material;
  • It can be placed in a well that is being plugged and abandoned;
  • It can be disposed of by commercial oil and gas NORM disposal company that is permitted to dispose of such waste.

Is a minor permit under Rule 8, needed to haul NORM-contaminated pipe?

No, because the transport of NORM is under DSHS jurisdiction.

Is a minor permit under Rule 8 required to move NORM waste from one lease to another lease for disposal?

A minor permit is required only if a minor permit is necessary for that type of waste regardless if it contains NORM. For example, a minor permit is necessary to move tank bottoms, but not move tubing.

The recent rule change required legible signs be posted around NORM waste sites, but did not stipulate the sign parameters. What are the sign requirements?

As a matter of administrative policy, the signs should use one inch tall letters consistent with the sign requirements of Statewide Rule 3 which reads: "The signs and identification required by this section shall be in the English language, clearly legible, and ... shall be in letters and numbers at least one inch in height."

Where can information be found about where oil and gas NORM occurs, such as producing formations or fields?

Very limited information is available; however, the RRC compiled a list of producing fields where leases or facilities where RRC surveys identified NORM-contaminated equipment from a survey of more than 600 leases and facilities.