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Solution mining

Introduction
Technology of solution
mining
Technology of the salt
production
Geological conditions
Pros and cons

Solution mining Introduction

The method of solution mining


is a very old technological
process. Natural brine
sources were already used in
antiquity.

The erected cavern by


solution mining often used as
underground storages for gas
or oil.

Besides the exploitation of


rock salt other minerals
obtains a great importance
(i.e. sylvinite, carnallite,
bischofite, trona).

The control and measurement


methods for steering the size
and the form of the cavities
were elaborated.

Brine was produced by


squirting water into mining
chambers as well as by
injection of water in the
deposit through wells.
In the 50th and 60th new fields
of the technology were
developed. The present status
of equipment of the well was
developed.

Technology of Solution Mining (1)

A bore hole was drilled from the surface of the earth to the
bottom of the salt layer.
A casing was worked in the bore well and was cemented from
the surface to the top side of the deposit. The cement must
shut tight against the pressure of the blanket.
The surface of the bore hole in the area of the deposit is free.
The salt can be dissolved.

Technology of Solution Mining (2)

The dissolution of the salt begins with the solution of a cavern sump. The
sump shall be accommodate the insolubles of the deposit near the
casings in the well.
During the solution of the sump only water is used .
The water current is directly, that means that the current of brine in the
cavern has the same direction as in the production casing.
The solution of the sump can be ended if the diameter of the cavern is 5
10 m.

Technology of Solution Mining (3)

The next step is the undercut phase. The injected water is going
trough the outer casing and the brine leave the cavern trough the
inner casing. This current direction is named indirectly.
Important for the forming of the cavern is the precise controlling of
the blanket level.

Technology of Solution Mining (4)

For winning of the salt in the deposit the level of the casings and the blanket was
arranged higher. Because in the cavern the density of the brine increases from the
top to the bottom, the brine current goes from the end of the outer casing under the
blanket level to the side and then it flows to the inner casing and to the surface.

Technology of Solution Mining (5)

The last step is reached, if the cavern arrives the top of the deposit.

Technology of Solution Mining (6)

Last of all the tubes were removed and the bore hole will be cemented.

Technology of Solution Mining (7)

The equipment of the brine place is very simply. For the production of brine
is needed:
(1) a building for a control room and an office, (2) a workshop and a storage,
(3) a building for pumps, (4) a blanket station, (5-7) tanks for water and brine

Technology of Solution Mining (8)

Another technology is used for the erection of underground storages. In this case the salt was
dissolved after the undercut in only one step. The entry of the solvent into the cavern is trough
the inner tube. From there the solvent rises up, dissolves the salt and goes to the outer casing.
The sides of this cavern are more straightly as the caverns which is leached with the step-bystep technology.
A disadvantage of this procedure is that the brine is in the most cases not saturated.

Technology of Solution Mining (9)

Methods to control the size of the caverns


1. Measurement of radial distance between the well and the
cavern surface with ultrasonic sondes (sonar).
2. Measurement of the area by addition of blanket into the
cavern and determination of height difference of the blanket
level.
3. Mass- and volume balance of solvent injection and brine
recovery

This three methods used together allows an


precise assessment of the cavern area and size.

Technology of the salt production (1)

The most important salt minerals, which


produced by solution mining are:
- Rock salt (NaCl)
- Sylvinite (NaCl + KCl)
- Carnallite (MgCl2 * KCl * 6H2O)
Because these minerals have very different thermodynamic
properties, the production technology for each salt had to
developed specifically.

How we have to see later for the winning of carnallite the


development of a new solution mining technology was
necessary.

Technology of the salt production (2)

Rock salt

The most important property of NaCl is the


independence of the saturation concentration
from the temperature.
Because of this the whole water contains in the
brine must be evaporated.
For example contains 1000 l saturated NaCl
brine 317 kg KCl and 882 kg H2O.
That means the production of NaCl is a very
energetic intensive process.
In locations with arid climate often used the
evaporation in solar ponds.
Otherwise the evaporation must take place in
technical plants. As energy base is used steam
or electrical power.

Technology of the salt production (3)

Rock salt

Flowsheet of NaCl production in a solar pond process


Brine

Solar pond
Harvested crystalline
crop

Crushing,
screening
Water

Oil or gas

Washing

Drying

Storage

NaCl

Soiled brine

Water

Technology of the salt production (4)

Rock salt

Flowsheet of NaCl production in a technical process


Brine

Chemical purification,
precipitation of Mg++, Ca++,SO4--

Steam or electrical
power

Oil or gas

Evaporation,
crystallisation

Water

Water

Drying

Storage

NaCl

Technology of the salt production (5)


Sylvinite
Sylvinite is a mixture of NaCl and KCl.
In the case of contact with water by solution mining will be dissolved both components. At
first in relation of their concentration in the raw salt and later the dissolution is
appraoching to the invariant point M (red line), as shown in the following picture.

400
Evaporation
NaCl - crystallisation
350

Brine

300

Mixing with ML

NaCl g/kg H 2 O

250

KCl - crystallisation
by cooling

200

Solution mining
150

100

50
10C

50C

90C

0
0

50

100

150

200

250

300
350
KCl g/kg H2O

400

450

500

550

600

Technology of the salt production (6)


Sylvinite

Flowsheet of NaCl + KCl production in a technical process


Brine

Chemical purification,
precipitation of Mg++, Ca++,SO4--

Steam or
electrical power

Evaporation,

Water
NaCl

NaCl crystallisation
Water

Washing

Soiled brine

Vaccum cooling,
KCl crystallisation
Oil or gas

Oil or gas

Drying

Drying
Storage

Storage

KCl

NaCl

Water

Technology of the salt production (7)


Carnallite
Carnallite is a double salt of MgCl2, KCl and six crystall water (MgCl2 * KCl * 6 H2O).
The solubility of the system Mg K Cl H2O is shown in the following diagram.

MgSO4=0 g/kg H2O

500

isati

on b

ora
ti

on

al
Carn

ll
rysta
lite c

oling
m co
u
u
c
y va

Ev
ap

400

h
leac

i ng

300

KCl loss by decomposition

le
ac
hi
ng

200

100

80C

Co
ld

MgCl2 g/kg H2O

d
Col

20C
0
0

50

100

150
KCl g/kg H2O

200

250

Technology of the salt production (8)


Carnallite

How we can see the cold leaching has no efficiency, because


- the brine is not high concentrated and many water
must evaporated
- the losses of KCl by decomposition of carnallite
are very high

Therefore the hot leaching technology for solution mining of


carnallite must used. This procedure has not the named
disadvantages and has the following advantages:
- The brine is high concentrated. Carnallite can be
crystallised by evaporation of a few amount of
water and cooling the brine
- The solvent is saturated on NaCl. Therefore halite
and also kieserite remain in the cavern as residue.
- In the cavern remains a high concentrated brine,
which not worries the environment.

Because the solvent has a high temperature, the cavern has


two wells as shown in the following picture. In only one well
would exchange the heat between the concentric inner and
outher tube or casing.

Technology of the salt production (9)


Carnallite
Solution mining of carnallitite with:
- two wells
- selective dissolution
- hot leaching

Technology of the salt production (10)


Carnallite
Flow sheet for the production of KCl from carnallite brine

brine
life steam

condensate
evaporator

hot saturated brine


evaporator, vacuum cooling,
carnallite crystallisation

condensate

slurry
mother liquor 1:
solvent for solution mining
or prodoction of bischofite
or discharge liquor

thickener

carnallite, halite
water

decomposition liquor
decomposition

sylvite, halite
hot mother liquor 2

halite, wet
hot leaching

hot brine, KCl saturated


water

condensate
vacuum cooling, KCl cristallisation

slurry
mother liquor
vacuum cooling, KCl cristallisation

KCl

Geological conditions
The very best to use the solution mining technology is:

- a great height of the deposit


- and a low depth

But by using new developed technologies the winning of


mineral salts in deposits with low height is possible. This new
technology is named solution mining with tunnel caverns. In
this case one bore hole was drilled verticaly and the other was
drilled at first verticaly and then it follows in the deposit the
direction of the salt layer with a deviation.

This technologie is not usable if the deposit has tectonical


breakdown and other disturbances or great changes in the
direction.
The drilling of the bore holes can be complicated and
expensivly if the overburden contains gas or water.

Pros and cons

Pros:
- In the most cases solution mining has a very high
economic efficiency because:
- The investment costs are low. (We dont need a mine)
- The drilling of the bore holes are running costs
- The demand of manpower is low
- Solution mining can also used by difficult hydrogeological
conditions.
- The first step of the potash mill (hot leaching) is in the
underground. There are no costs for this equipment.
- Residue and high concentrated brine stays in the cavern,
therefore there environmental burdens are low.

Cons:
- If the geological and tectonical conditions are very difficult,
the solution mining is not usable.