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Sandia National Laboratories provides the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) in southeastern NM a new approach using risk assessment (RA) for analysis of technical issues that arise during development of co-located potash and petroleum resources
SNL’s Geoscience Research and Applications Group provides scientific analyses for the US Department of Interior Secretary through support to the Bureau of Land Management in southeastern New Mexico which oversees national strategic resource development of potash and petroleum in the Secretary’s Potash Area. Development of these co-located resources has resulted in decades of disputed scientific and regulatory issues over which the BLM has jurisdiction as it manages resource development, issues permits and interacts with the State of New Mexico in regulatory matters. SNL has applied its expertise in systems analysis and risk assessment (RA) to the development of a baseline RA tool for BLM that can be applied to analysis of the resources and the geologic, hydrologic, and engineered sub-systems that interact in this complex system. The RA tool will enable the participants to readily identify components that contribute most to the risks of interest and identify areas where advances in technology would result in risk mitigation.
Applying the RA approach to analysis of complex systems has already helped BLM and stakeholders more clearly define issues of importance and the parameters that are key to analyzing problems such as the potential for gas to migrate from a wellbore into a potash mine. RA development requires collaborative work from all participants and has resulted in the first technical working group comprised of members from the potash and petroleum industries, BLM and SNL technical staff. This step represents significant progress toward productive collaboration to focus and prioritize analytical and data gathering resources and to build a tool that can represent conceptual models and parameter value distributions arising from different viewpoints. These two industries each produce resources worth hundreds of millions of dollars that are of strategic importance to New Mexico and the US. An RA tool that can produce science-based answers to important questions that impact safety and economic issues will be a great benefit to the BLM and stakeholders and SNL’s role as a trusted scientific advisor has been vital to the acceptance of this new approach.