Analysis of the behavior of large underground oil storage caverns in salt rock

A. Mortazavi, H. Nasab

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)


The storage of petroleum products above ground surface has many constraints and limitations. A viable alternative is to excavate large underground spaces in rock to provide a safer way for oil storage. Soft rock formations such as salt domes provide suitable conditions from environmental and operational aspects. The potential for high volume storage and low permeability are among advantages of oil storage in caverns excavated in salt rocks. The complicated shape of oil storage caverns, complex behavior of salt rock, and boundary conditions associated with large underground openings are major challenges in the design of salt caverns excavated for oil storage purposes. In this study, the deformation mechanism and stability of salt caverns were investigated. A comprehensive 3D numerical study was carried out to investigate the effects of cavern size and depth, salt rock deformation modulus, and ground in-situ stress regime on the behavior of large salt caverns. The stress field and deformation mechanisms were studied numerically aiming at shedding lights into the design aspects of salt caverns for oil storage. The analysis results show that the cavern safety factor is reduced as a function of cavern depth and storage volume. Also, with decrease in k (ratio of horizontal to vertical in-situ stress), the stability of salt caverns will increase; however, with increase in salt rock young modulus, the sensitivity of cavern stability to k ratio is reduced.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)602-624
Number of pages23
JournalInternational Journal for Numerical and Analytical Methods in Geomechanics
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Mar 1 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • creep behavior
  • numerical modeling
  • salt caverns
  • underground oil storage

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Computational Mechanics
  • Materials Science(all)
  • Geotechnical Engineering and Engineering Geology
  • Mechanics of Materials

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