The cavern facility at Etzel is one of the cleanest and most environmentally friendly storage facilities, since it virtually emits no pollutant emissions, waste or noise. Even during periods of solution mining the produced brine that leaves the Etzel site by pipeline is clean and when disposed into the North Sea it is not a risk to the environment.
The caverns are centrally operated from a control room which is part of the above ground facility. The plant components do not contribute significantly to any environmental harm, because all pumps, most gas compressors and other facilities are electrically driven. The existing compressor units are housed soundproofed to avoid noise emissions. Usually it is not cavern operation but necessary maintenance or construction work that may temporarily and locally lead to increased noise, in particular by the associated site traffic.
STORAG ETZEL makes an effort to keep possible disturbances to our neighborhood due to necessary maintenance work as low as possible by giving prior notice, traffic regulations and, if necessary, noise control and working time regulations.
Environmental protection is practiced every day at STORAG ETZEL. For us, this means that we comply with all environmental laws and provisions, as well as other applicable regulations and technical standards in this context. Possible impacts on the environment are already taken into account in the planning and construction phase of plants and during operation. Energy consumption and waste quantities are regularly monitored and checked in order to improve efficiency, reduce emissions and conserve resources.
Environmental management by STORAG ETZEL
Quality management in the areas of plant & working safety, energy and environment is very important to us, which is why regular reviews and assessments are carried out to continuously improve our environmental and energy performance.
The environmental management of STORAG ETZEL rests on 3 pillars:
- Reduce any environmental impact on air, water, soil in the operating phase
- Develop the Etzel Cavern Facility towards a living environment for humans, flora and fauna
- Counteract the long-term effects of mining (subsidence)
We are aware that our business activities are somewhere in the stress field of "industry vs. nature". The unaffected view from outside is also important to us in our day-to-day business. That is why we involve external consultants and decided to implement an environmental management system including associated work processes. In 2019, STORAG ETZEL became certified in accordance with the requirements of the DIN EN ISO 14001 standard.
What are our environmental management priorities since 2019 in regard to our three pillars?
1. Reduce possible environmental impact on air, water, soil in the operating phase
As part of our daily work, we focus on continuous improvement in order to avoid any possible environmental impact or limit it to the bare minimum. We pay particular attention to individual aspects.
For example, environmental damage from leaks is a risk during operation. Especially connections are sensitive points of piping systems. STORAG ETZEL aims high to promote technical progress in the field of modern leak detection systems, e.g. continuous monitoring and thus go beyond the required legal standard (so-called "state of the art"). Especially since 2019 we started a series of tests on new technologies and procedures in this context.
Also with the realization of other (construction) projects STORAG ETZEL has set the goal to improve the environmental performance and even to go beyond the statutory standards. Here are some more examples:
- With the restauration a of field pipelines we go beyond the legal requirements by considering access to the piping system for sophisticated inspection tools
- The main operation site of STORAG ETZEL is being progressively optimized with regard to water protection
- Since 2018, STORAG ETZEL has increasingly used electric motors in the cavern field instead of combustion engines to reduce local emissions
- STORAG ETZEL only works with certified service companies for the handling of waste and recycling material.
2. Develop Etzel Cavern Facility towards a living environment for humans, flora and fauna
Both the STORAG ETZEL operating areas and our compensation areas give us the opportunity to develop habitats for flora and fauna. In recent years, several measures were realized in the “North Field” for this purpose, such as a wild field and a pheasant winter feeding ground for wild animals in consultation with local hunters. In 2021 we established several wildflower meadows and strips for bees and other useful insects. Our large compensation areas are carefully managed and ecologically developed in coordination with the nature conservation authority and experts.
3. Counteract the long-term effects of mining (subsidence)
Subsidence as an inevitable consequence of underground mining and their possible effects are a crucial topic today and in the future decades. Since the beginning of cavern construction at Etzel in 1971, a very shallow depression has formed above the cavern field as a direct effect of shrinking cavern volume (convergence). The subsidence bowl levels out towards the outer rim.
In order to evaluate the future development and the total amount of subsidence considering the overall lifecycle of the cavern facility STORAG ETZEL has ordered a subsidence forecast or prognosis over the next 100 years of operation including an extra 200 years for cavern sealing and abandonment.
The model study was prepared by an expert, which is accepted by the mining authority. Based on this expertise an impact analysis was performed by a group of proven experts that demonstrates that, as a result, the effects of subsidence on subjects of protection are manageable and that the countermeasures to keep the subsided area dry are feasible and can be achieved by proven measures of dewatering. All other objectives in regard to safeguarding urban settlement, infrastructure, farming, landscape and ecology can be met as well.