Oil reserves in salt caverns: The potential in India

Source: The post is based on the article “Oil reserves in salt caverns: The potential in India” published in the Indian Express on 03rd June 2023

What is the News?

Government-owned engineering consultancy firm Engineers India (EIL) is studying the prospects and feasibility of developing salt cavern-based strategic oil reserves in Rajasthan. If the idea comes to fruition, India could get its first salt cavern-based oil storage facility

About India’s present strategic oil reserves

India currently has an SPR capacity of 5.33 million tonnes, or around 39 million barrels of crude. This can meet around 9.5 days of demand.

India’s strategic oil reserves come under the Petroleum Ministry’s special purpose vehicle Indian Strategic Petroleum Reserve (ISPRL).

EIL was instrumental in setting up the country’s existing SPR as the project management consultant.

The country’s three existing strategic oil storage facilities — at Mangaluru and Padur in Karnataka, and Visakhapatnam in Andhra Pradesh — are made up of excavated rock caverns.

Must read: Strategic Petroleum Reserves(SPR)

How are salt cavern-based reserves different from rock cavern-based reserves?

CriteriaRock cavern-based reservesSalt cavern-based reserves
Developed byExcavationSolution mining (pumping water into geological formations with large salt deposits to dissolve the salt)
Development processComplex, labour and cost-intensiveCheaper and less labour and cost-intensive
Other characteristicsCompared to Salt based reserves these are

-High oil absorbent

-Can not be created and operated entirely from the surface.

-extremely low oil absorbency

-Can be created and operated almost entirely from the surface.

-Suitable for storing natural gas, compressed air and hydrogen.

What is the global example of salt cavern-based reserves?

The entire SPR programme of the United States has so far been based on salt cavern-based storage facilities. The US Strategic Petroleum Reserve, the world’s largest emergency oil storage, consists of four sites along the Gulf of Mexico coast in Texas and Louisiana. The US strategic oil reserves have a cumulative capacity of around 727 million barrels.

What are the challenges in creating salt cavern-based reserves?

No site is identified: Rajasthan has the bulk of requisite salt formations in India. However, it is still too early to identify a specific site.

Not having enough technology: No Indian company, including EIL, had the requisite technical know-how to build salt cavern-based strategic hydrocarbon storage.

Read more: Govt approves two more new strategic oil reserves of capacity
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