Louisiana 13-acre 'lake-like' sinkhole well pad collapses
The Bayou Corne sinkhole, has cracked and collapsed an earthen well pad on the southern part, according to state regulators
27 May, 2013
Following heightened seismic activity last week, the Bayou Corne sinkhole, now called Assumption Parish lake-like sinkhole after expanding to 13 acres, has cracked and collapsed an earthen well pad on the southern part, according to state regulators.
Louisiana Office of Conservation-contracted experts working on the disaster response believe the "collapse and cracked well pad" link to heightened seismic activity late last week, according to officials' statement Tuesday.
The seismic events from late last week have eased for now.
Thousands of micro-quakes have occurred in the area over the past nine months, according to USGS.
Last week's seismic activity was more shallow than over the past nine months since the quakes began. Officials said that the environment caving into the hole and water moving in it were causing more seismic activity.
Agency officials said the discovery of the collapsed well pad did not halt work around the sinkhole and the area remains in emergency officials’ lowest “alert” status.
On March 22, increased seismic activity throughout the week caused all work in and around Louisiana's giant sinkhole to stop with the state Office of Conservation and Assumption Parish Incident Command advising the public that Oxy 3/sinkhole monitoring alert status had been raised to Code 3 alert.
The latest collapse swallowed about 25 more trees. Some trees destroyed in this disaster were over 100 years old.
The unprecedented oil and gas industry induced geological and human disaster, an environmental modification, also called ENMOD, began in May when locals reported methane bubbles and earthquakes.
On August 3, the "sinkhole" was reported in the area of the 1-mile by 3-mile Napoleonville Salt Dome and a mandatory evacuation was ordered.
Since then, the salt dome has continued to collapse, swallowing acre after acre into what is now a lake between Bayou Corne and Grand Bayou.
The event is blamed on one of two Texas Brine LLC's storage caverns that is collapsing inside the salt dome near its edge.
The declared state of emergency has resulted in human rights violations of some 350 people. It has uprooted neighborhoods in Bayou Corne that is under a mandatory evacuation order.
The ENMOD growing lake between Bayou Corne and Grand Bayou communities has been spewing crude oil and methane that have been traveling into the Cajun-swampland environment and communities as far as two miles away.
Texas Brine officials said in August that it had advised the state about the predicted problem weeks before any actions were taken and that the disaster could have been prevented.
As Assumption Parish residents experienced rights abuses early on in the disaster from their leaders' betrayal, parish leaders expressed anger in August about revelations that Louisiana Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and Texas Brine Co. LLC officials knew since January 2011 about salt cavern problems but withheld that information.
"Texas Brine Co. Saltville LLC president Mark J. Cartwright informed DNR in a January 21, 2011 letter about a failed integrity test of the cavern and company officials’ suspicion that the cavern possibly breached Napoleonville Dome’s outer wall, possibly explaining a loss of pressure in the cavern during the test," as reported by this author in early August.
“I’m very disappointed in DNR not being up-front,” Assumption Parish Sheriff Mike Waguespack had then said.
DNR Secretary Scott Angelle, a state oil and gas point person, resigned Wednesday without giving reason, but Governor Jindal quickly appointed him to LSU's Board of Supervisors.
Waguespack and local Homeland Security director John Boudreaux had said that then-DNR Secretary Scott Angelle did not tell them until a meeting the day after the sinkhole was reported that the salt cavern may well have had “problems” in 2010, but Angelle had still not disclosed the failed integrity test.
DNR Secretary Scott Angelle then abrupt resigned without giving a reason and Gov. Bobby Jindal quickly appointed him to Louisiana State University Board of Supervisors.
Questions remain about a possible connection between the 2010 BP Gulf oil catastrophe and the Assumption Parish oil and gas disaster.
Explosive methane gas migrating along fault lines from the Gulf of Mexico to Lake Peigneur and Bayou Corne sinkhole disaster salt domes has been a known oil and gas industry risk since 2005, according to Dr. Sherwood Gagliano.
Gagliano, president of Baton Rouge-based Coastal Environments, Inc., has spent years researching fault lines in south Louisiana and the Gulf of Mexico, as well as their connections to salt domes.
He said about salt domes, “We have over 100 of those facilities on faults in South Louisiana and Texas. They all need to be reevaluated."
Sixty-one of those salt dome facilities correlate with known subsurface faults, according to a 2005 report by Gagliano.
In 2005, Gagliano led a comprehensive study of suspected relationships between geological faults and subsidence in Southeastern Louisiana, reporting findings in Effects of Earthquakes, Fault Movements, and Subsidence on the South Louisiana Landscape.
“When oil, gas and produced water are removed, localized subsidence and fault movement may occur,” he then reported. “Geological fault movement, compaction and fluid withdrawal are inter-related processes contributing to subsidence.
“Differential movement between the low-density salt and adjacent sedimentary deposits may have a wedging effect on the faults, initiating brine water and gas movement up fault zones,” Gagliano reported. “The water and gas in turn may lubricate the fault plane surfaces and cause instability along fault segments.”
While finding that faulting poses a natural hazard in Louisiana, according to Gagliano, pumping water into the domes to dissolve salt for brine, as Texas Brine and other companies do, allows methane to migrate along faults and veins.
Like nitrogen, methane is an asphyxiant, meaning it can kill people by displacing oxygen. It can also be the source of explosions if a spark ignites it, as Bayou Corne “sinkhole” area residents and officials justifiably fear some 100 miles from Macondo and the migrating gas.
Soon after the criminal BP Gulf oil catastrophe began, the late Matt Simmons, oil guru, said people, especially in Louisiana, needed to be evacuated due to the Gulf’s “open hole.”
Louisiana Department of Natural Resources (LDNR) recently issued an order for 34 salt dome operators to show how close their oil and gas industry storage caverns are to dome outer edges, and to prove that caverns nearest dome edges are structurally sound.
That was an admission of the state previously failing to ensure such safety measures.
In reference to the 2010 BP Gulf crime, Gary Byerly, Professor of Geology at Louisiana State University, had predicted possible inland sinkholes.
Byerly said methane and oil was leaking into the Gulf naturally and explained that the weight of rock on the seabed usually restricts leaks to a very slow rate.
Byerly had said that he "could see something like this causing a sinkhole to form” inland.
Over two years later, methane gas has increasingly percolated in south Louisiana's collapsing salt dome "sinkhole" area swamplands.
Methane has been detected in the aquifer above the 1-mile by 3-mile Napoleonville Salt Dome farther east and deeper underground in the dome’s hard cap rock.
LDNR then ordered the Napoleonville Salt Dome’s seven operators to locate and vent or flare the gas. The spewing methane and other dangerous chemicals, however, continue to pose a threat of an explosion.