Potash mining

RPS has been de-risking mining and storage projects, including potash mining, by delivering our clients robust seismic surveys since 1985. We provide integrated expertise in 2D, 3D and 4D survey design and management, government approvals, landowner permitting, environmental monitoring, field operations supervision, data processing oversight, geophysical interpretation and earth modelling.

With four decades of providing subsurface imaging, our experience in collecting and interpreting seismic data for the potash industry is unmatched.

What is potash, and what is it used for?

Potash is a name given to a group of salts containing potassium, an essential ingredient for crops and general plant health. 85% - 90% of potash is used to produce fertilizer. Potassium, the main component in potash, is one of the three primary nutrients needed for plant growth. Potash-based fertilizers are a major contributor to global agricultural output and have many benefits. The application of fertilizer improves water retention, yield, nutrient value, taste and disease resistance. As the world’s population continues to grow, so too will the demand for food and, subsequently, fertilizers such as potash. Potash is also used in aluminium recycling, industrial water treatment, and brewing beer.

 


potash is used for agriculture

Where is potash found?

Canada accounted for over 30% of global potash production in 2020. Along with Russia, Belarus and China, these four countries accounted for 80% of the world’s potash production in 2019. Canada also has the world’s largest potash reserves, with 1.0 billion tonnes of potash (potassium oxide equivalent).

World production of potash (potassium chloride), by country, 2020

History of seismic surveys for potash

  • 1962

    First Canadian potash seismic project

  • 1985

    First potash 3D seismic program acquired

  • 1988

    First 3D seismic program used for collapsed identification

  • 1991

    A 3D seismic program is first used for shaft location

  • 1992

    3D seismic programs are integrated into production planning 

  • 1993 - 1994

    Seismic data used for carbonate porosity and aquifer integrity mapping and mapping of Brine inflow source

  • 1996

    First 4D seismic program acquired

  • 1997 - 1998

    3D seismic used for back-filling program and In-seam anomaly identification

  • 2004

    First 3C seismic program is acquired

  • 2006

    Successful identification of carnallite and Brine Inflow

  • 2008

     Our largest seismic project to date covering over 450 km2

  • 2019

    RPS is an industry leader in the utilisation of the wireless technology. To date, RPS has acquired over 7,300 km of 2D and over 8,900 sq. km of 3D using wireless acquisition system.

     

  • 2020

    Another 94 projects completed successfully since 2010

     

  • 2021

    26th 4D survey acquired at a single location

1 /14
1962

First Canadian potash seismic project

1985

First potash 3D seismic program acquired

1988

First 3D seismic program used for collapsed identification

1991

A 3D seismic program is first used for shaft location

1992

3D seismic programs are integrated into production planning 

1993 - 1994

Seismic data used for carbonate porosity and aquifer integrity mapping and mapping of Brine inflow source

1996

First 4D seismic program acquired

1997 - 1998

3D seismic used for back-filling program and In-seam anomaly identification

2004

First 3C seismic program is acquired

2006

Successful identification of carnallite and Brine Inflow

2008

 Our largest seismic project to date covering over 450 km2

2019

RPS is an industry leader in the utilisation of the wireless technology. To date, RPS has acquired over 7,300 km of 2D and over 8,900 sq. km of 3D using wireless acquisition system.

 

2020

Another 94 projects completed successfully since 2010

 

2021

26th 4D survey acquired at a single location

Our deep expertise in potash mining

RPS has decades of deep expertise in seismic project management, seismic acquisition and seismic interpretation in evaporitic basins worldwide. Working with our clients to understand their geological conditions, our fit for purpose workflows delineate areas of high risk that can be used to optimize future exploration, mine planning or mine development. We have been supporting clients in potash exploration and development since 1985, conducting the first 3D seismic operation for potash with PCS Potash - Allan Division. In Western Canada, no conventional mining will occur unless the area has been assessed by 3D seismic.

potash mine

Our seismic experience includes analysis of site-specific solution collapse anomalies, void space mapping, and brine inflow site identification. We use maps created from seismic data to determine potash potential, assist mine planners in assessing hazard potential in this area and delineate future seismic and drilling programs. Multi-discipline team combines seismic interpretation, petrophysics, and engineering expertise to identify and delineate prospective formations for sustainable water production and/or disposal.

Time-lapse (4D) seismic acquisition and analyses provide periodic measurements of changes in the subsurface situation.

Seismic data collection and interpretation methods continue to evolve and are used in various applications for the potash industry.

seismic data for potash development

Phases of mine development

Potash diagram

We push the limits of geophysical interpretation techniques

The reliance of potash companies on surface seismic data has continued to grow in recent years, and the desire for more detailed information continues to push the limits of geophysical interpretation techniques beyond typical structural and amplitude analysis.

We collaborate closely with our clients to understand their challenges and to deliver fit for purpose workflows that meet their requirements for cost-effective solutions that increase resolution and decrease risk.

Global expertise

We have worked on numerous potash projects around the globe.

 

Potash map

Map of countries and regions of RPS potash projects

Local knowledge

RPS has been fortunate to become the preferred seismic technology services provider for the Canadian potash industry. Our experience is unmatched and provides us with a unique understanding of the evaporite section gleaned from tens of thousands of kilometres of 2D and thousands of square kilometres of 3D seismic acquisition and interpretation in Saskatchewan and other parts of the world.

Locations of RPS seismic acquisition projects in SaskatchewanLocation of RPS seismic acquisition projects in Saskatchewan

Our expertise

Program planning design and parameter selection

Our planning and design strategy for seismic surveys takes a pragmatic approach and combines geophysical and logistical considerations with experience and integrated thinking. First, we review available historical data. Then, we design and plan 2D, 3D and 4D seismic surveys using the latest technical developments, incorporating site restrictions, terrain considerations and timing into the plan.

Project managers at RPS also manage the bids and contractor selection and collaborate with our client to develop a project budget. We require subcontract tendering on all major aspects of the operation, resulting in a transparent pricing structure. As a result, we ensure the best commercial value while maintaining safety, environmental and quality standards. Our clients rely on us to deliver on these standards - pragmatically, providing confidence throughout their project.

Seismic survey design

Project permitting, approvals management and environmental compliance

We support our clients navigate the complexities of planning and designing a seismic potash survey project, from the permitting process and compliance with local, regional and national regulatory bodies. We work closely with independent environmental monitors to ensure the survey observes all environmental restrictions. We understand the regulatory framework for surveys conducted on crown and private land and ensuring surface access requests and communication with landowners and other stakeholders progress successfully.

Establishing and maintaining mutually beneficial relationships with landowners is essential when surveying private land. Ongoing relationships are crucial to current and future mine operations. Positive landowner relations are the cornerstone to ensuring ongoing success for future operations.

We secure right-of-entry permits and communicate with landowners throughout the seismic survey. We are responsible for resolving any damages that may arise during the project. We also perform well water testing before and after the survey to provide a baseline of comparison to determine whether the seismic activity has affected the water quality or performance of a specific well.

Environmental licensing

Field operations and health, safety and environment (HSE) monitoring

While in the field, our team’s primary focus is that the survey runs efficiently and safely. Our field team is responsible for scouting and field surveying and hazard identification, line clearing, drilling or vibrator truck operations (vibroseis), and recording data. We are also responsible for the health and safety of everyone involved in the project. We have a network of skilled professionals in HSE risk management who are involved in the initial planning and early hazard identification, ongoing risk management and HSE reporting.

Once data has been collected, our teams perform post-program water well testing, remove line markers and equipment, compensate landowners, and submit final documentation.  

Health and safety

 

Seismic data processing

RPS takes a pragmatic approach to seismic data collection, overseeing processing and data interpretation. We make logical considerations such as geophysical risks, seismic imaging, assessing the quality of seismic data to be processed, and the value of the information it can provide. This balancing of cost and quality at the beginning of any potash exploration process is vital to the success of a project.

Seismic data processing

Seismic interpretation and earth modelling

Re-evaluating seismic interpretations after mining operations has enabled our clients to calibrate seismic signatures to mined geology. For each mine site, all available seismic data, both current and historic, is maintained online in a single interpretation project for reference when day-to-day mine operations require immediate information.

Attributes analysis and time-lapse (4D) interpretation of seismic data, coupled with microseismic passive monitoring, allow geophysicists to track dynamic changes in the subsurface related to mining activity and fluid migration. Multi-component seismic (3C) workflows have been performed for fracture characterization, rock physics and geomechanical properties estimation. Acoustic impedance inversion and earth modelling have been utilized to assist in statistically mapping ore grade anomalies.

Earth modelling for potash exploration facilitates the integration and visualization of multiple data sources. Earth models have become the data repository of the subsurface where geoscientists can query the data in 3D. Our bespoke approach is important because the complex localized geology varies between and within the different mine locations. We have developed unique workflows using specialized software to combine seismic, wells and engineering data to identify geological relationships.

Exploration and appraisal studies

Project management

As Prime Contractor, RPS has managed over $425 million worth of projects over the past ten years. In total, over 7,300 linear km of 2D data, over 8,900 square km of 3D and 208 square km of 4D data have been acquired by RPS. These projects range in size from our largest project at $28 million to projects of less than $1 million. We have extensive experience as Prime Contractor in all areas of Canada, and all geophysical acquisition operators have worked for RPS in some capacity.

We take pride in ensuring that all aspects of the Prime Contractor role are looked after, from safety management, planning, financial management, and reporting, through to execution and closure. RPS does not contract out essential planning resources. Synergies and efficiencies are maintained by housing expertise internally and enhancing communication within working technical relationships.

Clients who use RPS as their prime contractor save management time and money because we work hand in hand with the contractors and continuously ensure contract compliance. We ensure that our client’s safety diligence requirements have been met by bridging our safety program with our client’s program and continuously provide monitoring documentation and reports.

During the survey, RPS project managers provide daily and monthly cost tracking and reporting, transparently and seamlessly.

At the end of a project, a final report and presentation are prepared. This report includes all operational documentation such as permits, landowner agreements, pre and post-project water well-testing results, and HSE reporting.

 

Seismic operations management and support

Get in touch

Contact us

Edgecombe_Roger_20181126_waistup_highres.jpg (1)

Roger Edgecombe

Operations Director – Technical and Advisory (Canada) T: +1 403 265 7226 Email
View profile »
Calgary | Canada
Foster_Orrin_20181126_waistup_highres.jpg (1)

Orrin Foster

Technical Director, Geophysical Operations T: +1 403 265 7226 Email
View profile »
Calgary | Canada
Suzanne Gentle, Geomodeler / Geophysicist

Suzanne Gentile

Senior Geomodeler / Geophysicist T: +1 403 265 7226 Email
Calgary | Canada
Ian Scotland, Geologist

Ian Scotland

Geophysicist T: +1 403 695 1444 Email
View profile »
Calgary | Canada
Luc Gravel

Luc Gravel

Senior Geophysicist T: +1 403 444 4815 Email
Calgary | Canada

Get in touch

Your contact information:

All fields are mandatory *

Get in touch

Your contact information:

All fields are mandatory *