Natural gas storage in excavated mines has been limited to only a few mines worldwide. The primary issue with CAES storage in a mine is the integrity of the mine structure: high-pressure air containment is typically poor because of the active geological environments associated with mined ore deposits. The Norton mine is unique because of a very stable geological environment and extremely low permeability limestone mine host rock.
Hydrodynamics and Sandia National Laboratories investigated the Norton Mine from 1999 to 2005 to characterize and analyze the mine for performance as a CAES storage vessel. Because high-pressure air has never been stored in a mine, Hydrodynamics and Sandia performed one of the most complex & extensive research programs of any mine in the United State and included:
Specifically, Hydrodynamics and Sandia drilled over 600 feet of core samples, performed laboratory analysis of the core for rock strength and hydraulic properties, performed microscopic thin-section analysis, performed high pressure in-situ testing, performed in-situ stress measurements, numerical modeled air migration from the mine, and conducted a finite-element rock strength modeling analysis.
Additionally, Hydrodynamics prepared a conceptual mine shaft plug design, and designed the air injection and withdrawal well system for CAES performance. We also provided mine development support services that included:
The results of our research demonstrated the Norton Mine is cable of supporting approximately 2,700 MWe CAES power plants.