Louisiana’s commissioner of conservation has ordered Texas Brine LLC to abate the safety and environmental threats from its failed brine cavern on the west side of the Napoleonville Salt Dome in Assumption Parish where a sinkhole has been threatening residents and infrastructure since August.

Commissioner of Conservation James Welsh said based on “fingerprint” analysis and other data, the source of crude oil and natural gas that have been observed at the surface in the Bayou Corne area appears to be one or more naturally occurring oil and natural gas formations, and that scientific evidence indicates that the failure of the sidewall of the Texas Brine cavern provided a pathway up to the aquifer and the surface for oil and natural gas that had previously been confined thousands of feet below.

“We have been driven by scientific data in all of our efforts to determine the cause of the natural gas found in the aquifer, the formation of the sinkhole, and the presence of crude oil found on the surface of the sinkhole,” Welsh said.

Bubbles were first seen in the Bayou Corne area in August, forcing some residents from their homes and necessitating the shut in of some natural gas pipeline infrastructure running through the area (see Daily GPI, Oct. 10; Sept. 18).

Texas Brine was ordered to:

“Establishing how natural gas reached the aquifer and what caused the formation of the sinkhole was an important step in the process, but the work is not yet done,” Welsh said. “We will continue to hold Texas Brine accountable and ensure that this work is completed as quickly as possible, in a manner that protects their safety and the environment.”

Meanwhile, the Louisiana Oil and Gas Association (LOGA) sought to dispel the misconception among some that the cavern was a natural gas storage facility, or that its compromise is indicative of something that could happen at an underground natural gas storage cavern.

“There seems to be some confusion even by some elected officials as to the use of salt dome caverns, such as the one in Assumption Parish that is used for salt-water storage,” LOGA President Don Briggs wrote in a column. “Louisiana State Sen. Fred Mills plans to again introduce a bill before the state legislature that would require companies to conduct an environmental impact statement (EIS) before expanding natural gas storage caverns beneath Lake Peigneur. He has proposed a similar bill before the legislature last year that failed.”

Briggs emphasized that the leak at Bayou Corne is unrelated to gas storage.

“Natural gas storage facilities exist all across the lower 48 states of the U.S.,” he wrote. “According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), there are currently close to 400 underground storage facilities. As the 20-plus shale plays in the U.S. continue producing a massive supply of natural gas, the need for more storage is obvious.”

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