The Potential of Oil Reserves in Salt Caverns in India

  • Engineers India (EIL) is conducting a feasibility study in Rajasthan, India, to create salt cavern-based strategic oil reserves in order to improve the country’s storage capacity.
  • If it is successful, it will be India’s first salt cavern-based strategic storage facility, as opposed to the existing rock cavern-based strategic storage facilities.

Cavern-based Storage of Oil

  • Cavern-based strategic oil storage facilities are crude oil or petroleum product storage facilities that use naturally occurring underground caverns for storage.
  • These caverns are often generated by methods such as solution mining or excavation in salt deposits or other geological formations.
  • The storage capacity in salt cavern-based storage facilities is formed by dissolving salt deposits with water.
  • Pumping water into geological formations with substantial salt concentrations dissolves the salt and forms caverns.
  • After the brine (salty water) is removed, the space can be used to store crude oil or other petroleum products.

Benefits provided

  • They are inherently well-sealed, forming a secure and impermeable barrier to liquid and gaseous hydrocarbons.
  • Impermeable: Because of this intrinsic sealing property, they are appropriate for long-term oil storage, reducing the possibility of leaks or environmental pollution.
  • Pumping efficiency: Cavern-based storage facilities frequently feature high injection and extraction rates, allowing for quick and efficient operations.
  • Massive capacity: Because of their huge volume capacity, caves can hold a significant amount of oil, making them ideal for strategic oil reserves designed to manage supply shortages or emergencies.
  • Strategic crude oil reserves are built by countries to reduce supply disruptions and provide energy security amid global supply shocks and emergencies.

Current Strategic Oil Reserves in India

  • Existing strategic oil storage facilities: India’s three present strategic oil storage facilities, which are dug rock caverns, are located in Mangaluru, Padur, and Visakhapatnam.
  • Present capacity and days of demand met: India’s present strategic oil reserves have a capacity of 5.33 million tonnes, equivalent to around 39 million barrels, and can meet demand for about 9.5 days.
  • Expansion plans: India is in the process of increasing its strategic oil reserves at Chandikhol in Odisha and Padur by 6.5 million tonnes.

Examples of Salt Cavern-Based Storage

  • US Strategic Petroleum Reserve: The US has the world’s largest emergency oil storage, with storage caverns created in salt domes along the Gulf of Mexico coast. It has a capacity of around 727 million barrels.
  • Salt caverns for other purposes: Salt caverns are also used for storing liquid fuels, natural gas, compressed air, and hydrogen in various parts of the world.

Potential for such storage in Rajasthan

  • Rajasthan’s conducive conditions: Rajasthan, with abundant salt formations, is seen as a favorable location for developing salt cavern-based strategic storage facilities.
  • Previous plans and current renewal: Earlier plans for a strategic oil reserve in Bikaner did not materialize, but the exploration of salt cavern-based storage in Rajasthan can be seen as a renewed proposal.
  • Suitability of infrastructure: The presence of a refinery in Barmer and existing crude pipelines in Rajasthan make the infrastructure suitable for developing strategic oil reserves.
  • Importance of technological access: Previously, no Indian enterprise held the technical expertise required for the construction of salt cavern-based strategic hydrocarbon storage.

India’s future plans

  • Emergency stocks: The Indian Strategic Petroleum Reserve (ISPRL) manages India’s strategic oil reserves, which are meant to supply emergency stockpiles.
  • Import protection: According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), governments should keep enough oil on hand to cover 90 days of imports.
  • Plans for commercialization and partnerships: India intends to commercialise its strategic petroleum reserves through public-private partnerships, decreasing government spending while maximising the reserves’ commercial potential.
  • Recent actions and releases: India used low crude oil prices to replenish its stockpiles, resulting in cost savings. As part of coordinated efforts with other major oil-consuming countries, it also released oil from its strategic reserves.

@the end

In comparison to rock cavern-based reserves, salt caverns provide distinct advantages that coincide with India’s goals of increasing storage capacity and assuring energy security.

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