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API unit

1. n. [Formation Evaluation]

The unit of radioactivity used for natural gamma ray logs. This unit is based on an artificially radioactive concrete block at the University of Houston, Texas, USA, that is defined to have a radioactivity of 200 American Petroleum Institute (API) units. This was chosen because it was considered to be twice the radioactivity of a typical shale. The formation is the primary standard for calibrating gamma ray logs. However, even when properly calibrated, different gamma ray tools will not necessarily have identical readings downhole because their detectors can have different spectral sensitivities. They will read the same only if the downhole formation contains the same proportions of thorium, potassium and uranium as the Houston standard. For example, logging while drilling (LWD) tools have thicker housings than wireline tools, causing a different spectral response to the three sources of radioactivity, and therefore a different total gamma ray reading in some formations.

The nuclear well log calibration facility at the University of Houston, known as the API pits, was opened in 1959 for the calibration of natural gamma ray and neutron logs. A facility for calibrating natural gamma ray spectroscopy logs was added later.

See: neutron log

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