Solution Mining Research Institute

Solution Mining Research Institute, Inc. (SMRI) is a world-wide, non-profit, member-driven organization that provides specialized education, technical reference information, and current issue research to those in the solution mining and storage cavern industries. SMRI members include salt, potash and trona based companies, support organizations, operators, researchers, suppliers, consultants, educators, government regulators, students, and others with interest in solution mining and cavern utilization.

SMRI has been involved in research to support the industry since the 1960s and continues to actively research subjects of current and future interest to our members and the cavern industry. Historical research funding has produced software that is used by industry professionals, best practices for cavern design and operations, and a catalogue of the world’s salt deposits and storage caverns. Current research activity includes cataloging and comparing mineral characteristics, the abandonment of deep underground storage caverns, and comparing the storage of hydrogen versus natural gas in salt caverns.



The cavern storage industry is seeing rapid changes with the green energy evolution and the potential for storing hydrogen in caverns. SMRI has over 50 years of history in natural gas and petroleum storage and is using that knowledge to assist the industry with hydrogen storage. Current and future research projects are and will be looking into the needs of the industry to best prepare and adapt for the potential switch to hydrogen.

SMRI hosts two annual conferences to allow industry networking, project and research updates, and education regarding new technologies. Each conference features a technical class, includes about 20 technical paper presentations, and provides field trip opportunities to see various mines, brine/salt production and storage facilities, or historic sites/features to learn how they have been operated and managed. SMRI continues to support the training and development of future industry experts and managers.

The organization maintains a library of papers and research reports funded by the Institute. The library is free for members to access and non-members can purchase copies of technical papers and research reports.

What is Solution Mining?

Solution mining is the process of extracting underground, water-soluble minerals (salt, potash, trona, etc.), through one or more drilled wells, by dissolving the minerals with water. As the water circulates, it dissolves the mineral and becomes saturated, the brine is forced up a separate pipe string to the surface. The brine can be used to produce minerals, sent directly to a chemical process, or disposed of during storage cavern creation.



Benefits of Membership

  • Access to the over 3,500 articles in SMRI’s library. These articles include all SMRI conference papers back to 1971, all SMRI funded Research Reports, and all World Salt Symposium papers. Non-members can purchase copies of papers and Research Reports.
  • Software licenses for SALGAS, SALT_SUBISD, and SMRI Toolbox software programs. Non-members can purchase the rights to the various programs.
    • SALGAS simulates the dissolution of sodium chloride salt by water.
    • SALT_SUBSID is a subsidence model used to evaluate surface subsidence over underground openings in salt, potash, and trona.
    • SMRI Toolbox makes several tools available to hydrocarbon storage operators and brine producers.
  • Member registration rates for the technical conferences and classes.
  • Special discounted registration rates for Class R members for the conference technical class.
  • Participation in the Business Meeting and voting rights to determine the funding of research projects. Members are also eligible to apply for the Research and Leadership Committees.





Cavern Storage

After solution mining, the completed underground caverns are commonly used for the storage of crude oil and natural gas, as well as other hydrocarbons, chemicals, hydrogen, compressed air, and waste. Gas caverns, for example, provide storage capacity to deliver maximum output to meet the high demand for natural gas during the winter. Salt caverns provide an ideal storage medium for hydrocarbons and hydrogen, as well as being environmentally friendly. The properties of salt, including viscosity, low permeability, and porosity, can provide for a safe containment of the storage media.


Recent News

July 2023 - RFP 2021-1 Completed and under review, an update to come in Spring of 2024

May 2023 – Abstracts are now being accepted for the Fall 2023 SMRI Conference. Anyone interested in presenting must e-mail their proposed title with a 200- to 500-word abstract to Kurt Looff, 2023 Program Chair, by 16 June 2023. The preliminary list of selected papers will be posted 12 July online, with later revisions to be posted as necessary. More information can be found in the Call for Papers.

April 2023 – SMRI released Request for Proposal RFP2023-1: “Deep or Tall Cavern Abandonment Testing and Analysis”. The overall objective of the study is to provide a greater understanding of deep/tall cavern abandonment.  There are several possibilities for the approach to this work and specifics regarding the scope can be found within the attached RFP.  Responses to this RFP should be reasonably brief (less than 10 pages), describe the proposed effort and offer a succinct discussion of the respective technical approach. Proposals should be submitted in electronic form via email to Tim Bauer, SMRI Research Coordinator, ([email protected]), by 1 August 2023.

February 2023 - SMRI launches a Job Board where members and non-members can post job openings and people looking for employment can post resumes. This service will be free to members, and non-members can pay a fee to post employment opportunities. The Job Board can be accessed here.

January 2023 – Mr. Tim Bauer assumes the role of Research Coordinator for SMRI. He can be contacted at [email protected]. SMRI thanks Fritz Wilke for his service to the organization and we hope he enjoys his retirement.

January 2023 – SMRI has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Pipeline Research Council International (PRCI). The two groups intend to find potential opportunities to co-fund future research projects and ways to promote the underground storage industry.

November 2022 – The American Petroleum Institute releases updated, second-edition standards for natural gas storage in underground salt caverns and depleted hydrocarbon and aquifer reservoirs to help ensure a safe and reliable energy supply. For more information on the newest versions of API 1170/1171 click here.