New chapter in disposal at the Werra potash plant
“We have already consistently reduced injection over the past few years,” explains the Chairman of the Board of Executive Directors of K+S AG, Dr. Burkhard Lohr: “This process was associated with great efforts and high capital expenditure. Now, as agreed, we are finally discontinuing injection at the end of the year and opening a new chapter in saline wastewater disposal in the Hesse-Thuringia potash district, providing long-term security for production at the Werra plant.”
In the production of high-grade potash fertilizers and other mineral products, solid and liquid residues inevitably arise under the current state of the art. Although K+S has already more than halved the volume of saline waters over the past 20 years, the remaining wastewaters will have to be disposed of safely in the future as well. Besides discharge into the Werra river, particularly more concentrated saline waters were injected into deep rock formations in the past - a form of disposal that is common worldwide in the potash industry and had been practiced in the Werra valley since 1925.
Since the mid-2010s, K+S has committed to gradually reducing injection and completely discontinuing it by the end of 2021. Along with further measures to reduce saline wastewater, this was an important component of the planning of the Weser River Basin Community (FGG Weser) in the 2015-2021 river management period, which has been successfully implemented. The volume of wastewater injected was also further reduced as part of corresponding agreements with Werra municipalities and environmental associations. The additional savings of one million cubic meters of saline wastewater in the injection process by the end of 2021, as stipulated in a settlement with BUND, were already achieved in April 2020, with the total amount saved in the injection process actually amounting to around 1.4 million cubic meters. Now the injection will finally end.
Pioneer for environmentally friendly mining
“K+S has kept its word and is once again a reliable partner,” says Dr. Burkhard Lohr. “We are serious about being a pioneer of sustainable and environmentally friendly mining, and will continue our contribution to relieving the burden on the environment.” The target values set by the FGG Weser in mid-November for the river management period until the end of 2027 will further improve the water quality of the Werra and Weser rivers step by step. K+S furthermore keeps its promise not to discharge any more production water into the Werra river from 2028 onwards.
New disposal methods are needed for achieving these ambitious targets without injection. The cornerstone of the new disposal concept is the storage of highly concentrated salt water in the Springen mine field, for which the approval process is currently underway. "We are confident of beginning storage in the first half of 2022. In this way, production at the Werra plant will be secured in the long term," explains Lohr.