Development of Deep Non-Potable Saline Groundwater for Industrial Use
INTERA is supporting Intercontinental Potash Corp. USA (“ICP”) in its development of a polyhalite mine and processing facility in southeastern New Mexico for production of sulphate of potash (SOP) for use as a high-quality fertilizer. Given the limited availability of freshwater resources in southeastern New Mexico, ICP chose to pursue non-potable saline water from the Capitan aquifer as a source to supply the mine and processing facility with necessary water for routine functioning. Under New Mexico water law, water in an aquifer that is below 2500 feet below ground surface and contains more than 1000 parts per million total dissolved solids is available for mining and industrial use without a traditional water right, as long as development of the water will not impact existing freshwater users. The Capitan aquifer was formed by a horseshoe-shaped limestone deposit surrounding the Delaware Basin in southeastern New Mexico and western Texas referred to as the Capitan Reef Complex. It extends over a distance of approximately 200 miles. Within Lea County, New Mexico the aquifer ranges from 800 to 2200 ft thick and is approximately 12 miles wide near the Eddy and Lea County boundary and 6 miles wide near Jal, New Mexico. Through a program of exploratory well drilling, aquifer testing, and groundwater flow modeling, we found that the Capitan aquifer will be a viable water supply for the mine over its 50-year lifespan. Concerns related to depletions to the Pecos River, a stream which is subject to a contentious interstate stream compact and is hydraulically connected to the Capitan aquifer in areas distal from the mine site, were allayed using a detailed MODFLOW model. Now that the water supply for the project has been established, the project is moving towards construction beginning in 2014.