Controlled Solution Mining in Massive Salt
- G.F. Sears (U. Of Texas) | F.W. Jessen (U. Of Texas)
- Document ID
- Society of Petroleum Engineers
- Society of Petroleum Engineers Journal
- Publication Date
- June 1966
- Document Type
- Journal Paper
- 115 - 125
- 1966. Society of Petroleum Engineers
- 4.1.2 Separation and Treating, 5.1.1 Exploration, Development, Structural Geology, 1.6 Drilling Operations, 4.6 Natural Gas
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Cavities in massive salt for the purpose of storage of liquid hydrocarbons have assumed a prominent position in recent years. This paper describes a program to facilitate leaching operations for the formation of specifically shaped storage cavities. Various forms and sizes of cavities may be possible through use of the techniques developed.
The creation of large underground storage facilities for natural gas and liquified petroleum gases has been practiced for many years. Use of cavities obtained through solution of salt for this purpose is a fairly new and novel approach, but has gained increasing importance due mainly to the economics of this type of mining operation as opposed to hard rock mining or surface and pit storage.
The idea of controlling the shape of any cavity dissolved from massive salt has not been a prime consideration of companies engaged in the formation of storage space. This has been due mainly to an insufficient knowledge of the mechanics of the leaching process and a dearth of published information dealing with both the desirability and ease of control possible for this type of operation.
Two distinct advantages are readily ascertainable. From a stability standpoint (i.e., the ability of the completed cavity to withstand stress imposed by overburden pressure and tectonic stresses) a controlled cavity may be generated which will yield the most favorable attitude to these external forces and remain in operable use for longer periods of time. A second advantage is that for a given volume, a sphere (which is one controlled shape possible) represents the minimum surface area exposed. This may become more important in the future when dealing with refrigeration and product losses in underground cavities.
The basic solution mining process, without regard for controlling the final shape, is quite simple in that the equipment and materials required to dissolve a cavity in a salt dome or layered salt section are a source of fresh water, a circulating pump, several strings of tubing, and a means of disposal of the return brine. To add control measures involves the use of an inert blanket material above the position at which solution proceeds. Initially, the annulus of the largest wash pipe is filled with this blanket down to the top of the proposed cavity. The bottom of the proposed cavity is determined by the depth of the original drilled hole or a blanking plug. The blanket material is added incrementally in stages and displaces the water in the enlarging cavity downward. Where the blanket material has displaced the water, no further solution takes place. The rate at which to add this controlling blanket material so as to be able to form specifically shaped cavities of any particular size is of considerable importance.
It is desirable to have as much information as possible as to the behavior of the mining operation since visual observation is obviously impossible. It would be advantageous, for example, to have a step-by-step program showing how much salt is to be removed, at what rate, and the time required. This type of program would facilitate procurement of surface equipment and provide for proper management of manpower requirements, as well as a host of intangible benefits. As mentioned earlier, only rule-of-thumb estimates were available until recently and made this type of pre-planned operation haphazard at best.
Recent work has done much to clear up the ambiguities and inaccuracies attendant to solution mining of salt and has helped to place the operation on a more scientific basis. This study attempts to correlate much of the information thus far developed into a complete mining program; to extend the idea of controlled solution mining to include not only spheres, but solid conic sections of the ellipsoidal variety; and to refine the computation of the rate of removal of salt during the various stages of mining.
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