Mechanism of the Dissolution of Salt in the Formation of Underground Salt Cavities
- R.W. Durie (U. Of Texas) | F.W. Jessen (U. Of Texas)
- Document ID
- Society of Petroleum Engineers
- Society of Petroleum Engineers Journal
- Publication Date
- June 1964
- Document Type
- Journal Paper
- 183 - 190
- 1964. Original copyright American Institute of Mining, Metallurgical, and Petroleum Engineers, Inc. Copyright has expired.
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The development in the laboratory of small salt cavities illustrated that the rate at which salt dissolved was affected by the rate at which fresh water was injected into the cavity. Experiments carried out with small salt cores indicated, however, that the rate of salt removal with forced convection was not significantly different from that with natural convection, provided the flow was in the laminar range. The rate of salt removal was apparently controlled by the water salinity, which was indirectly determined by the rate at which fresh water was injected. With turbulent flow at the salt surface, the rate of salt removal could be increased several fold with the same salinity in the cavity. A quantitative evaluation of the rate of salt removal under natural convection was attempted by using techniques developed for the analogous heat convection system. The values of the rate of salt removal obtained experimentally were considerably greater than the calculated values due to surface irregularities. To determine the effect of these irregularities, the rate of salt removal was found for a smooth surface by experimentally determining the rate of salt removal as an irregular surface developed and then extrapolating this trend hack to initial time. Excellent agreement between the experimental and calculated values then were obtained.
Underground cavities leached from massive salt formations have been used extensively for many years for storing LPG products. The development techniques for storing methane gases in the liquid state at a low temperature leads to speculation that underground salt cavities of controlled geometry may be quite important in this field. In any case, the increasing number of salt cavities used for storage indicates an impending need for a better knowledge of the washing process to efficiently develop maximum storage volumes within specified regions. It is the purpose of this paper to discuss some aspects of the mechanism of the dissolution of salt in the formation of cavities of controlled geometry. Although no attempt is made to resolve the problems that may be associated with the storage of methane in the liquid state in salt formations, the fact that salt cavities can be formed at reasonable cost would appear to justify investigation in this direction. Further, underground cavities have the advantage of allowing storage at higher pressures (and hence higher temperatures) than surface installations. Although the thermal conductivity of salt is somewhat higher than frozen earths, 0.017 cal/(sec) (cm) (degree C) for salt at 32F vs 0.005 cal/(sec) (cm) (degree C) for ice at this temperature, this disadvantage is offset by the higher storage temperature in underground cavities. For example, at atmospheric pressure, the temperature of liquid methane would be -258F. In a storage cavity at 2,000 ft, the pressure would be approximately 1,000 psia, which would allow a storage temperature of -90F. The formation temperature would be roughly 110F at this depth, hence the total temperature differential would be 200F. Under surface storage conditions the corresponding temperature difference would be some 333 F (75 F + 258 F). The results of this difference can be compared more readily by substituting the appropriate values of thermal conductivity, temperature difference, heat capacity and density into the solution of the diffusion equation for the unsteady linear conduction of heat. For the underground salt storage, the heat flux is , where t is the time in seconds from the initiation of the cooling. For the surface system, and using the thermal properties of ice at the average temperature, the corresponding figure is cal/(sec) (sq cm). Hence, the heat losses through ice under surface conditions would be some 30 per cent higher than the underground salt storage. This ratio would vary considerably, of course, for other conditions, but it indicates that an advantage over surface facilities may be obtained by storage in underground salt cavities.
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