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SQM-01-2022 Online monitoring of brine leaks in new ponds


Deadline 14/09/2022

Closing Time 4:00 pm

During the second half of 2022, 9 ponds covering an area of 570,000 m2 will be built in Salar de Atacama. The ponds vary in size from 100×200 m to 500×220 m and their
construction involves leveling and flattening the salt crust and creating halite walls at their edges 3 meters above the surface of the salar. Once the process is completed, a base or layer of 300 g/m2 geotextile membrane and a layer of HDPE or PVC material 1 mm thick are placed. The construction time of the pond is approximately 3 months and the useful life in operation is more than 5 years.

In order to perform preventive maintenance of the evaporation ponds, technological solutions are sought for
online monitoring and timely alerting of the location of infiltrations or ruptures that may occur during operation and harvesting. The proposed solutions can be installed before or during the construction of the pond As a secondary, non-exclusive objective, the aim is to quantify the infiltrated volume.

The solution must be capable of detecting a leak anywhere in the pond.
• The solution must provide the coordinates or location where the infiltration occurs with a maximum accuracy of ± 1 m.
• Must generate and visualize information online, with data updated at least 24 hours a day.
• The solution should be compatible with the following operating conditions:
∙ Exposure to a brine and a salt crust (halite), (See Annex: chemical characterization of the brine).
∙ In times of pond harvesting, the technological solution will be exposed to loading and tensile stresses from heavy machinery.
∙ Useful life of at least 5 years, ideally 10 years.
∙ Technology maintenance should not be invasive.

• Degree of technological maturity at least at the level of prototype tested in operational environment (TRL ≥ 7).
• Must have visualization, user interface and reportability tools.
• There is construction flexibility if the technology requires the installation of a base layer or other requirements.

Solutions that detect leaks by indirect methods such as electromagnetic mapping, dipole-dipole, 3D-ERT scanning, etc. are excluded.

Currently, there is no online infiltration monitoring system to detect brine leakage.

Uncertainty in mass balances and pond maintenance planning.

There is no estimated correlation of vulnerable areas or frequency of leaks.

Through indirect methods such as: geophysical (electromagnetic mapping, dipole-dipole, 3DERT scanning), tightness tests, mass balances.
These methods detect the leak, but in a delayed manner and do not provide information on the specific location where the rupture occurred.

No technologies have been tested.