An Australian Coal Industry’s Research Program (ACARP) study conducted by the CSIRO has recommended a new technology for elemental distributions for a downhole environment.
The report advises using Prompt Gamma Neutron Activation Analysis (PGNAA), which uses a neutron generator to detect major, minor and trace elements in coal and interburden materials.
The PGNAA was found to be more suitable than X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) and Laser Induced Breakdown Spectroscopy (LIBS) technologies.
“The use of a switchable neutron generator allows for a significant improvement in the occupational health and environmental safety considerations, especially when compared to the previously used ‘always on’ chemical isotope neutron sources,” the report said.
“This nuclear approach also provides a ‘volume’ estimate of elemental abundance and it does not have the issues of providing a representative estimate that the XRF and LIBS, ‘surface’ techniques share.”
The report found that while both the XRF and LIBS might provide higher sensitivities than the neutron approach, implementing them in the boreholes would prove far more difficult and would require an engineering solution to ensure the best material samples were being taken.