Helium Storage in Cliffside Field
- Miles D. Tade (U.S. Bureau Of Mines)
- Document ID
- Society of Petroleum Engineers
- Journal of Petroleum Technology
- Publication Date
- July 1967
- Document Type
- Journal Paper
- 885 - 888
- 1967. Society of Petroleum Engineers
- 2.2.2 Perforating, 5.6.1 Open hole/cased hole log analysis, 5.5.2 Core Analysis, 4.6 Natural Gas, 1.14 Casing and Cementing, 1.2.3 Rock properties, 2.4.3 Sand/Solids Control, 1.6 Drilling Operations, 4.2 Pipelines, Flowlines and Risers, 5.6.2 Core Analysis, 5.1.1 Exploration, Development, Structural Geology
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Since Jan., 1963, the U. S. Bureau of Mines has been injecting crude helium into the Bush Dome structure of Cliffside field for storage in connection with the government's helium conservation program. It is predicted that during the life of the injection program about 59 Bcf of crude helium, containing 41.5 Bcf of helium, will be injected. As of July 1, 1966, 15.3 Bcf of crude helium, containing 10.7 Bcf of conservation helium, way in storage.
The Cliffside field is located about 15 miles northwest of Amarillo, Tex. Bush Dome, the storage reservoir, is the largest of four or five secondary domes in Cliffside field and was discovered in 1924. The dome was originally developed to supply helium-bearing natural gas for processing at the Amarillo helium plant. Production is from the Brown dolomite formation at about 3,300 ft.
Prior to the injection of crude helium, pure helium had been injected and recovered from underground storage. The success of that project and additional studies confirmed that the reservoir was suitable for storage. Field wells were recompleted in 1961, and the field was converted from production to a simultaneous production-helium injection operation. Wellheads were installed underground to reduce the possibility of damage, and a control system was installed so that each well could be controlled without approaching the wellhead.
History of Conservation
Helium occurs as a constituent of natural gas in most, if not all natural gas fields in the United States. However, fields containing helium in high enough percentages to make helium extraction economically feasible are limited. As gas produced from these fields was consumed as fuel, the helium contained in the gas was wasted at a rate of 6 Bcf/year. This loss of helium through the flues of gas consumers, coupled with a great increase in helium demand during the 1950's, prompted the Bureau of Mines to consider some method of conserving helium. It was estimated that without conservation the helium available from known sources would be depleted in about 30 years. Congress recognized that helium was a valuable, irreplaceable resource and that an adequate future supply should be assured, and in 1960 passed legislation enabling the Secretary of the U. S. Dept. of Interior to enter into long-term contracts for the purchase of helium for conservation. Contracts to run 22 years, obligating $47.5 million a year for the purchase of helium, were made with four companies. The private companies constructed five conservation helium plants in Texas and Kansas. Helium produced by the conservation plants is in crude form, which is essentially a helium-nitrogen mixture with small amounts of methane and hydrogen. The helium content of crude helium ranges from 50 to 80 percent and averages about 70 percent.
The crude helium is transported through a government-owned high-pressure pipeline for injection and storage in the Bush Dome structure of Cliffside field. Cliffside field is an irregularly shaped high situated on the south side of the buried Amarillo Mountain structure and on the north edge of the Palo Duro basin. Seismic data indicate the presence of four or possibly five secondary domes in Cliffside field. The largest of these structures is Bush Dome which has a vertical closure of about 550 ft and an areal extent of about 11,000 acres. The dome has a steep dip to the north and northwest and a gentle dip to the south and southeast.
The main gas-producing horizon and also the formation in which crude helium is being stored on Bush Dome is in Permian-Wichita-Albany-Wolf-camp beds known locally as the Brown dolomite. The Brown dolomite, found at a depth of about 3,300 ft, consists largely of dolomite but also contains anhydrite, shale and sandstone stringers. Anhydrite and shale stringers are evident in every well, but individual stringers cannot be correlated between wells. The dolomite is heterogeneous and varies in thickness from 250 to 300 ft. Brown dolomite porosity obtained from core analysis ranges from 4 to 20 percent with a weighted average of about 11 percent. Permeability is about 10 md. Immediately above the storage formation is the Panhandle lime formation. This is the caprock of the helium storage reservoir. The caprock consists largely of impermeable anhydrite and averages about 400 ft in thickness throughout Bush Dome. The top of the Panhandle lime is easily recognizable from well logs and is usually used as a marker for contour mapping.
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