Description: Three-dimensional finite element analyses simulate the mechanical response of enlarging existing caverns at the Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR). The caverns are located in Gulf Coast salt domes and are enlarged by leaching during oil drawdowns as fresh water is injected to displace the crude oil from the caverns. The current criteria adopted by the SPR limits cavern usage to 5 drawdowns (leaches). As a base case, 5 leaches were modeled over a 25 year period to roughly double the volume of a 19 cavern field. Thirteen additional leaches where then simulated until caverns approached coalescence. The cavern field approximated the geometries and geologic properties found at the West Hackberry site. This enabled comparisons are data collected over nearly 20 years to analysis predictions. The analyses closely predicted the measured surface subsidence and cavern closure rates as inferred from historic well head pressures. This provided the necessary assurance that the model displacements, strains, and stresses are accurate. However, the cavern field has not yet experienced the large scale drawdowns being simulated. Should they occur in the future, code predictions should be validated with actual field behavior at that time. The simulations were performed using JAS3D, a three dimensional finite element analysis code for nonlinear quasi-static solids. The results examine the impacts of leaching and cavern workovers, where internal cavern pressures are reduced, on surface subsidence, well integrity, and cavern stability. The results suggest that the current limit of 5 oil drawdowns may be extended with some mitigative action required on the wells and later on to surface structure due to subsidence strains. The predicted stress state in the salt shows damage to start occurring after 15 drawdowns with significant failure occurring at the 16th drawdown, well beyond the current limit of 5 drawdowns.
Date: March 1, 2002
Creator: EHGARTNER, BRIAN L. & SOBOLIK, STEVEN R.
Partner: UNT Libraries Government Documents Department