Baton Rouge: Louisiana Commissioner of Conservation James Welsh ordered Texas Brine LLC to drill two 6,000-foot geotechnical wells near the site of its failed salt brining cavern to provide deep underground staging points for seismic imaging equipment that will give a clearer understanding of the current status of the underground support structure beneath the sinkhole and area around the failed Texas Brine cavern.
Welsh’s new instructions are in response to Texas Brine’s plan for Conservation-ordered geophysical modeling and expansion of seismic monitoring in the area, which Office of Conservation staff reviewed and found insufficient to meet the goals laid out in an Oct. 12, 2012 directive.
“Because Texas Brine’s original plan in response to the order was inadequate, we ordered these wells so we can use the best technology available to get an accurate picture of subsurface conditions down to the base of the original cavern. These wells will provide additional information about the sinkhole and will help us continue to preserve the safety of the area and get the lives of these residents back to normal,” Welsh said.
“The October order to Texas Brine was clear in its intent and in its deadlines, and our staff provided further clarification of what was required in several follow-up meetings, yet Texas Brine still failed to meet the requirements. The deadlines set in these directives are aggressive, but absolutely necessary and achievable to get to the bottom of this situation,” Welsh said.
“The Office of Conservation has already imposed financial penalties on Texas Brine for its failure to meet its responsibilities with an appropriate sense of urgency to protect public safety, and can do so again if the company does not comply with the deadlines and directives set by the Office. The Office of Conservation is continuing to direct and oversee Texas Brine in their efforts to find and remove the natural gas, clean up the sinkhole and maintain additional safety measures for the homes of Bayou Corne residents.”
The deadlines set forth in the order require Texas Brine to provide drilling plans for the geotechnical wells by Dec. 28, 2012, with rigs on site and ready to drill by Jan. 15, 2013.
The testing procedures outlined in the order for the geotechnical wells are also intended to gain information on potential void space around the failed cavern that may hold oil and natural gas, as well as the viability of drilling a relief production well to remove oil and natural gas directly from the formations underground.
Additionally, the new requirements in the Emergency Declaration and Directive add specific provisions to amplify the instructions given to Texas Brine in Welsh’s Oct. 11, 2012 orders, which called for the collection and interpretation of geophysical data so experts could determine the nature and extent of the collapsed structure from the base of the original cavern to the ground surface.
Welsh’s order also includes provisions for expanded monitoring of ground water at the base of the Mississippi River Alluvial Aquifer to assess the potential spread of saturated salt water from the failed cavern or the formation that is feeding the crude oil and natural gas. Out of utmost caution to maintain safety, the order also calls for new sonar surveys and daily reports on the internal pressures of Texas Brine’s two closest active brining caverns