Hutchinson Two companies say they would use super-chilled brine to keep an aquifer at bay while drilling a shaft for the future Kansas Underground Salt Museum.
Four companies have submitted bids to build the shaft, said Jay Smith, executive director of the Reno County Museum. A winning bidder will be selected in December, and drilling could begin as soon as March.
Providing technical expertise to understand the bids were Gary Petersen, with the Ishpeming, Mich., company Rock Mechanics Assist, and Peter Tiley, president of G.L. Tiley & Associates Ltd. of Ontario, Canada.
Peterson said a major obstacle in drilling the 14-foot-wide hole is an aquifer that's about 30 feet below the surface and goes to about 160 feet down. The water must be kept from flooding the labyrinth of salt-mine passageways 650 feet below.
"The repercussions are very serious if you can't block the water because it will dissolve the salt," Tiley said. "We have to have zero leakage."
Two bidders Cowin & Company of Birmingham, Ala., and Zeni Drilling of Morgantown, W.Va. suggested pumping chilled brine through a series of holes to freeze the water. Crews would then drill or blast their way through the frozen core, sealing the aquifer with a steel casing cemented to the shaft's wall.
The shaft will be about 900 feet west of the $7.8 million underground museum. The museum will tell the story of salt mining in Hutchinson and its importance to humans throughout history.