EGU21-1196, updated on 11 Jan 2022
EGU General Assembly 2021
© Author(s) 2022. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Inhomogeneous rock compositions and varying dissolution rates affect evolution and shape of leaching zones in potash seams

Svenja Steding1,2, Thomas Kempka1,2, Axel Zirkler3, and Michael Kühn1,2
Svenja Steding et al.
  • 1GFZ German Research Centre for Geosciences, Potsdam, Germany (
  • 2Institute of Geosciences, University of Potsdam, Potsdam, Germany
  • 3K+S Aktiengesellschaft, Kassel, Germany

Salt deposits host an important industrial raw material and provide storage capacities for energy and nuclear waste. However, leaching zones can seriously endanger the development and utilisation of salt deposits for these purposes, especially if these occur in potash seams. Their increased solubility enables even NaCl-saturated solutions, if present, to deeply penetrate these seams. The resulting salt dissolution processes generate fluid flow paths and affect the mechanical rock integrity. To model the timely evolution of leaching zones and to assess their hazard potential, a reactive transport model has been developed, taking into account not only the complex dissolution and precipitation behaviour of potash salts, but also the resulting porosity and permeability changes as well as density-driven chemical species transport. Additionally, the model makes use of an approach to describe transport and chemical reactions at the interface between impermeable (dry) salt rocks and permeated leaching zones (Steding et al., 2021). In the present study, we focus on the effect of heterogeneity of the mineral distribution within potash seams and on the influence of mineral- and saturation-dependent dissolution rates.

The applied reactive transport model is based on a coupling of the geochemical module PHREEQC (Parkhurst & Appelo, 2013) with the TRANSport Simulation Environment (Kempka, 2020) as well as the newly developed extension of an interchange approach (Steding et al., 2021). A numerical model has been developed and applied to simulate the leaching process of a carnallite-bearing potash seam due to natural density-driven convection. The results show that both, the mineral composition and dissolution rate of the original salt rock, strongly influence the shape and evolution of the leaching zone (Steding et al., 2021).

In nature, strong variations of the mineralogy occur within potash seams with random or stratified distributions. Furthermore, dissolution rates depend on the mineral itself as well as on its saturation state. Both may considerably influence the growth rate of a leaching zone. Therefore, the reactive transport model has been extended by mineral- and saturation-dependent dissolution rates. A scenario analysis has been undertaken to compare the impact of homogeneous and heterogeneous rock compositions. For that purpose, the carnallite content in the potash seam was varied from 5 to 25 wt. % including different stratifications and random distributions. The simulations were classified by means of the Péclet and Damköhler numbers, and the long-term behaviour as well as hazard potential are discussed.



Parkhurst, D.L.; Appelo, C.A.J. (2013). Description of Input and Examples for PHREEQC Version 3 - a Computer Program for Speciation, Batch-reaction, One-dimensional Transport, and Inverse Geochemical Calculations. In Techniques and Methods; Publisher: U.S. Geological Survey; Book 6, 497 pp

Kempka, T. (2020). Verification of a Python-based TRANsport Simulation Environment for density-driven fluid flow and coupled transport of heat and chemical species. Adv. Geosci. 54, 67–77.

Steding, S.; Kempka, T.; Zirkler, A.; Kühn, M. (2021). Spatial and temporal evolution of leaching zones within potash seams reproduced by reactive transport simulations. Water 13, 168.

How to cite: Steding, S., Kempka, T., Zirkler, A., and Kühn, M.: Inhomogeneous rock compositions and varying dissolution rates affect evolution and shape of leaching zones in potash seams, EGU General Assembly 2021, online, 19–30 Apr 2021, EGU21-1196,, 2021.


Display file