Mining conference hears about natural gas storage

Engineers hoping to use underground caverns for storage of natural gas or other substances should view regulators as partners, a company leader told members of the industry Monday.

Bobcat Natural Gas Storage worked with about 40 agencies to complete its natural-gas storage facility in a hollowed-out salt dome near Lafayette, La., Bobcat President Paul Bieniawski told the Solution Mining Research Institute on Monday at the Doubletree Hotel.

Bobcat began work on the storage project in 2006 and began storing gas in its first cavern on Nov. 1, 2008, and its second last Oct. 31.

Key to the process was working with government agencies, Bieniawski said.

When he discussed plans with agencies, “It wasn’t what Bobcat wanted, it was what can we do,” Bieniawski said.

Bieniawski is one of several industry representatives discussing developments at the institute.

Bobcat’s storage facilities are salt domes hollowed out by solution mining. Water that was injected into the domes dissolved the salt, and the brine was pumped out, leaving a hollow for storage of substances such as natural gas.

Geological structures such as salt domes are stable and, once hollowed out, can create vast underground holding spaces for commodities such as natural gas.

For instance, with additional storage anticipated this year, Bobcat will have about 19 billion cubic feet of working gas capacity.

The Solution Mining Research Institute deals with water-soluble ores, such as salt, potash or trona.

About 169 technical professionals and 30 or more associated people from around the world are gathered at the meeting, which began Sunday and continues through today. The institute also will take a tour of the Intrepid potash mine near Moab, Utah.


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