Salt caverns are giant enormous cavities inside large salt deposits. These underground salt deposits are able to maintain consistency in both temperature and porousness, making them ideal storage solutions for many things, particularly where moist and humidity are common enemies as exposure to such deteriorates their molecular structure and binding elements. This includes valuable materials like priceless goods, artifacts, paintings, data archive, and even books. While salt caverns may be ideal storage places for these materials, there are actually larger-scale uses of salt caverns that easily turn them into industrial proportions.
In Canada, three major salt formations have been identified that have very large salt deposits – Western Canada, Ontario, and the Atlantic Provinces. The development of salt caverns for industrial storage use and solutions are ideal for these areas where large deposits of salt can be found. These Canadian salt caverns have salt beds that extend to different territories.
The immense salt deposits found in Canada are estimated to be over billions of tons. The drilling of salt deposits to develop salt caverns requires intensive skill and knowledge in the geography of the salt deposit as well as chemical analysis of the salt contained in the area. Aside from this, engineering solutions that helps to ensure the integrity of the cavity is essential as the seeping out of the materials that will be stored there can be catastrophic, not just on the part of those living above, but also on the environment.
One of the most common uses of salt caverns is using it for storing hydrocarbons – both liquid and gas. Since salt caverns are expected to be water proof and able to withstand pressure, it makes them ideal storage ground for liquid and gas hydrocarbons. These volatile materials can be very dangerous if the salt cavity is not able to maintain its structure. This is the very reason why each developed salt cavern is thoroughly checked by groups of expert panels. By doing testing like mechanical integrity test (MIT), scientists are able to determine if the created salt cavern cavity is strong enough and can perfectly suit its intended use.
Another use of salt caverns is waste disposal. Since salt cavern cavities are able to self-seal and provide very secure repositories tucked underneath the surface of the earth, salt cavern proves to be useful in storing hazardous chemical wastes. However, it is important to keep in mind that there are legal requirements as well as legal concerns in the use of salt caverns for waste disposal. Most regulations limits the storage of waste to only the nonhazardous type.
These days, new research is showing that scientists will be able to theoretically store excess wind energy and use salt caverns to store the compressed air that can be used for future electricity production. Although the project is likely to materialize within the next couple of years, salt caverns provide a promising way of being able to store nearly anything you want. Power storage using salt caverns is something new and is seen by many scientists as one that has very large potential. The impact of such development will greatly help many communities within Canada.