Numerical Expansion Analyses of the Strategic Petroleum Reserve in Bayou Choctaw Salt Dome, USA

Rock Engineering 2009 - Rock Engineering in Difficult Conditions
Courtney G. Herrick, Brian L. Ehgartner,
Abstract This paper develops a series of three-dimensional simulations for the Bayou Choctaw Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR). The U.S. Department of Energy plans to leach two new caverns and convert of one of the existing caverns within the Bayou Choctaw salt dome to expand its petroleum reserve storage capacity. An existing finite element mesh from previous analyses [Park et al., 2008] is modified by adding two caverns and increasing the size of existing Cavern 102. The structural integrity of the three expansion caverns and the interaction between all the caverns in the dome are investigated. The impacts of the expansion on underground creep closure, surface subsidence, infrastructure stability, and well integrity are quantified. The two new caverns may be leached in shape of bifrustum.
The three potential SPR expansion caverns are predicted to be structurally stable against tensile failure. Dilatant failure is not expected within the vicinity of the expansion caverns. Damage to surface structures is not predicted and there is not a marked increase in surface strains due to the presence of the three expansion caverns. The predicted strains above the cavern roofs of the three caverns are less than the critical limit, thus the wells into the caverns should not yield. The results show that from a structural viewpoint, the locations of the two newly proposed expansion caverns are acceptable, and all three expansion caverns can be safely constructed and operated. Figure 1 shows the overview of the mesh containing all 26 caverns.
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