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Publication numberUS2896932 A
Publication typeGrant
Publication dateJul 28, 1959
Filing dateOct 28, 1958
Priority dateJan 22, 1958
Publication numberUS 2896932 A, US 2896932A, US-A-2896932, US2896932 A, US2896932A
InventorsMarquis Urban C
Original AssigneeHumble Oil & Refining Company
Export CitationBiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan
External Links: USPTO, USPTO Assignment, Espacenet
Apparatus for hot water sulfur mining
US 2896932 A
Abstract  available in
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Claims  available in
Description  (OCR text may contain errors)

July 28, 1959 u; c. MARQUIS APPARATUS FOR HOT WATERSULYFUR MINING 2 Sheets-Sheet 1 Filed Oct. 28, 1958 FIG.

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July 28, 1959 Y u. c: MARQUIS 2,396,932

APPARATUS FGR- HUT WATER SULFUR MINING Filed'Oct. 2B, 1958 2 Sheets-Sheet? F |G. 3. cduroua LINES on TOP 0F CAP aocx GAS WATER CONTACT ATT R' E 2,896,932 APPARATUS FOR nor WATER SULFUR MINING Urban C. Marquis, New Grleans, La, assignor to Humble Oil & Refining Company 'Original application January 22, 1958, Serial No.

710,516. Divided and this application October 28, 1958, Serial No. 770,169

1 Claim. (Ci. 262--3) The present invention is directed to apparatus for mining sulfur. More particularly, the invention is directed to apparatus for mining sulfur in which substantially all of the sulfur available in a porous deposit is mined. In its more specific aspects the invention is concerned with the selective removal of sulfur from a porous sulfur deposit. a a I This application is a division of US. Serial No. 710,516 filed January 22, 1958, for-Urban C. Marquis, entitled Mining of Sulfur.

The apparatus of the present invention is particularly useful in mining sulfur in which a sufficient amount of gas is introduced into the porous spaces of a cap rock and the underlying sulfur-containing formation of a porous sulfur deposit to displace substantially all of the water contained in said cap rock and in the sulfur-containing formation. Thereafter, the displaced water is removed from the cap rock and the sulfur-containing formation and hot water is injected at a temperature sufficient to melt sulfur in the gas-containing cap rock above the sulfur-containing formation such that the hot water drains down through the sulfur-containing formation liquefying the sulfur, and thereafter the liquefied sulfur is removed from the sulfur-containing formation.

Briefly, the apparatus of the present invention involves a casing cemented in a well drilled to penetrate a subsurface sulfur deposit in which the lower open end of the casing is positioned above the barren cap rock of the sulfur deposit. A packing means is arranged adjacent the lower end of the casing and a perforated liner is positioned with its upper end movably arranged in the packing means and with its lower end in open hole below the casing. The open hole terminates at a level above the sulfur deposit. On flowing hot Water down the casing, the liner moves vertically within the packing means.

Thus, the present invention contemplates apparatus for filling with gas or gases the pore space of both the barren limestone and the sulfur ore zone to be mined of a pressurable porous sulfur deposit. A gas-water level is established and maintained immediately below a horizon from which it is desired to mine sulfur, or immediately above a horizon from which it is desired to withdraw liquefied sulfur from the cap rock. This gas cap is formed by injecting gas into the porous cap rock at any desired point that permits movement of the gas to the crest of the cap rock structure and at the same time withdrawing cap rock water to provide space for the gas cap.

The apparatus of the present invention is of considerable advantage in that it provides control for distributing hot water to desired portions of the cap rock and may be applied directly to a localized area without appreciable loss of heat to undesired areas.

Moreover, the apparatus of the present invention dispenses with heating the cold formation water in the sulfur zone and the barren zone of the porous limestone cap rock. Porosities of the'porous limestone cap rock approximate about 15 percent. As a result, with the apparatus ofthe present invention, less hot water is reice quired to heat the gas filled cap rock to the desired temperature than is required in the prior art to heat the same cap rock filled with cold formation water. In short, the amount of hot water required and the number of i3.t.u.s required to liquefy a ton of sulfur in the formation is greatly reduced. Another advantage of the present invention is that initial sulfur production may be obtained in less time than that in conventional operatrons.

The sulfur production wells may be drilled vertically or directionally, if desired, from beyond the subsidence area. Directional drilling from beyond the subsidence area and entering the sulfur zone at a low angle may be desirable since these wells would not be affected detrirnentally by sloughing within the cap rock. As a result, the directionally drilled wells drain sulfur from a large area and may not be affected by sloughing of the cap rock and production from them may be obtained over a long period of time.

The apparatus of the present invention is especially .applicable to recovering sulfur from shoulder and.flank deposits Where there is a large amount of porous-barren cap rock above the sulfur deposit because, in employing the apparatus of the present invention, hot water is not lost up structure to the barren cap rock and cold water does not migrate into the mining area. in other words, the hot water is applied directly to the sulfur ores Furthermore, the drainage pattern on the steep flank of the dome may be used to advantage by the improved method of producing sulfur to drainv sulfur from a large area.

Inasmuch as the hot water employed in the practice of the present invention is used efficiently and contacts directly the rock containing the sulfur, the hot water need not be at the temperature usually employed in conventional sulfur mining. In other words, where a temperature heretofore from about 315 to 340 F. has been required, in the practice of the present invention a temperature in a lower range may be used. For example, a temperature from about the melting point of sulfur up to about 315 F. may be employed and maybe preferred in the practice of the present invention with efficient mining of the sulfur, although I do not preclude the use of temperatures up to 340 F.

Another great advantage of the apparatus of the present invention is that essentially all of the sulfur in the ore body is recovered. splines of sulfur between sulfur wells are not recovered. In using the apparatus of the present invention, with gas filling the cap rock pore space and with hot water heating the base of the sulfur ore body and the top of the underlying formation, the result is that all of the sulfur in the ore body is liquefied and essentially all of it drain to the production wells. Thus, a gas cap is introduced into the cap rock to liquefy sulfur in a gaseous rather than in a liquid medium so that the hot water is introduced into the top of the sulfur formation and gravitates down through the sulfur formation liquefyin-g the sulfur as it penetrates the formation. The sulfur liquefies and drains down structure to the production well to be lifted to the earths surface. Hot water is utilized effectively and efiiciently inheating a desired'or localized portion of the cap rock without requiring theheating of other or un desired areas. f v The present invention will be further described by reference to the drawing in which:

Fig, l is a'sec tional view of a'sulfur deposit over a Patented July 2%, 1959 In the prior art practice, residual Fig. 4 is a view illustrating the reuse of the hot injected water.

Referring now to the drawing, numerals 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16 and 17 designate a plurality of wells drilled from the earths surface, not shown. These wells are drilled to penetrate a sulfur-containing formation generally indicated by the numeral 18. By sulfur-containing formation, it is understood that the barren cap rock and the actual sulfur-containing formation is designated. It will be noted that gas injection well 11 is drilled into the barren cap rock, while hot water injection wells 12 to 15 are drilled to the substantial base of the sulfur containing formation 18, just above the layer of anhydrite 19 and are then plugged back to a desired depth above the, sulfurcontaining formation. The bleed well 17 is also drilled to just above the anhydrite formation 19. The anhydrite and the sulfur-containing formation 18 overlie a salt plug 20.

In the practice of the present invention, gas is introduced by well 11 to fill the barren cap rock designated by the numeral 21 and to fill the pores of the sulfurcontaining formation 18. This gas may suitably be a hydrocarbon gas, such as methane, ethane, or propane.

However, other gases may be employed, such as air, nitrogen, and the like. It will be preferred to use a hydrocarbon gas, since the porous barren cap rock 21 and the sulfur-containing formation 18 may be used as a storage space for the hydrocarbon gas besides performing its function in the present invention. After the gas has been introduced, or as it is being introduced, cold water is withdrawn from the bleed well 17 to remove substantially all of the cold water from the cap rock 21 and the sulfurcontaining formation 18 down to a gas-water interface generally indicated by the numeral 22.

The gas-water interface is suitably maintained by regulating the rate at which the bleedwater is withdrawn at the bleed wells. The mine pressure within the gas filled portion of the cap rock is controlled by withdrawing or injecting gas through the gas injection well. At this point it is to be noted that the gas injection well is up structure to the hot water injection well and also that the hot water injection wells are up structure to the sulfur producing well, while the bleed water well is down structure from the remainder of the wells. Hot water is then introduced through one or more of the plurality of the wells to cause the sulfur to be liquefied and flow to the bottom of the porous formation and drain down structure on top of the impermeable anhydrite to sulfur production wells 15 where the liquefied sulfur is raised to the earths surface. These sulfur production wells are completed in the conventional manner using three concentric strings of pipe which flow hot water downward through the large outer pipe and flow liquefied sulfur upward through the intermediate string and pumps compressed gas downward through the small inner string of pipe to jet the liquefied sulfur upward through the intermediate or production string. Wells 12, 13, 14, and 15 illustrate wells which have been used as hot water injection wells to exhaust substantially all of the sulfur from the sulfur-containing formation 18, while well 16 illustrates a well from which sulfur is being produced while injecting hot water therein, it being noted that the hot water causes the selective melting out of the sulfur within a limited radius of the well, but only below the gas-water interface and does not remove sulfur from the gas filled sulfur formation above the gas-water interface. By leaving the sulfur in the gas filled cap rock above this well, the formation remains strong and does not tend to slough as it would do if the sulfur were removed. Sloughing would damage the well equipment and consequently shorten the life of the well.

Referring now particularly to Fig. 2, numeral 30 designates a well bore of a hot water injection well, such as 12 to 15 of Fig. 1, in which a casing 31 is arranged and cemented in place with cement 32. The well bore 30 is drilled to the top of the cap rock 21 and thereafter an open hole 33 is drilled to penetrate to the layer of anhydrite 19. Arranged within the open hole 33 is a perforated liner 34 provided with perforations 35. The liner -34 is'arranged in a packer 36 which seals the annular space 37 between the casing 31 and the liner 34. The open hole 33 below the liner 34 may suitably be plugged with cement 38.

These hot water wells require 'no inner strings of tubing or complex wallheads such as currently used in sulfur production wells. If sloughing shears the liner, the well may be reworked and placed in use again because only the liner is involved and this may be replaced after cleaning out the hole. The liner may be divided into sections to strengthen it.

By virtue of providing an arrangement such as shown in Fig. 2, the liner 34 is free to move upwardly and downwardly Within the packer 36 and yet maintain a seal, the hot Water being injected into the cap rock 21 through the. perforations 35 and trickling downwardly into the ore body 18.

Referring now to Fig. 4, hot water introduced through well 15 causes sulfur production as has been described through well 16 with bleed Water being removed through Well 17. This bleed Water contains heat and may be returned by insulated line 40 to heating plant 41 and returned to well 15 by insulated line 42 for reuse as described. Thus, the temperature of the bleed water may be such that only sufiicient heat in plant 41 may be required to raise its temperature by 50 to F. for reinjection and reuse. In this particular embodiment, sulfur production wells 16 may be located adjacent bleed wells 17 to utilize the heat contained in the water for melting the sulfur and make it available for reuse. Also, as shown in Fig. 4, wells 16 and 17 are completed at approximately the same depth and the less dense hot water will circulate over the denser cooler Water to Well 17 for return to the surface as has been described.

It will be noted in the practice of the present invention that substantially all of the sulfur is depleted from the formation by employing the practice of the present invention without requiring the heating up of all the cold water originally in the formation.

The present invention is of considerable advantage and utility by virtue of the savings allowed in the mining of sulfur by using the particular technique described and claimed here.

The nature and objects of the present invention having been fully described and illustrated, what I wish to claim as new and useful and secure by Letters Patent is:

Apparatus for introducing hot water into a 'well drilled to penetrate a subsurface sulfur deposit which comprises, in combination, a casing cemented in said well having its lower open end positioned above the barren cap rock of said sulfur deposit, packing means arranged in said casing adjacent the lower open end, and a perforated liner positioned with its upper end movably arranged in said packing means and with its lower end in an open hole below the casing, said open hole terminating at a level above the sulfur deposit, said liner moving vertically within said packing means and easing on flowing hot water down the casing through the perforated liner.

No references cited.

Non-Patent Citations
1 *None
Referenced by
Citing PatentFiling datePublication dateApplicantTitle
US4241953 *Apr 23, 1979Dec 30, 1980Freeport Minerals CompanySulfur mine bleedwater reuse system
US4249775 *Jan 17, 1979Feb 10, 1981British Sulphur Corp., Ltd.Mining of sulphur
US4869555 *Jan 6, 1988Sep 26, 1989Pennzoil Sulphur CompanyApparatus for recovery of sulfur
US5072990 *Jul 12, 1990Dec 17, 1991Mobil Oil CorporationAcceleration of hydrocarbon gas production from coal beds
U.S. Classification299/6, 299/4
International ClassificationC01B17/033, E21B43/285, C01B17/00, E21B43/00
Cooperative ClassificationC01B17/033, E21B43/285
European ClassificationE21B43/285, C01B17/033