POSTED: Monday, August 13, 2012 - 11:45am
UPDATED: Thursday, August 16, 2012 - 12:06pm
BAYOU CORNE, LA — Louisiana Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Secretary Stephen Chustz announced today that the Office of Conservation’s Injection and Mining Division has reviewed and approved Texas Brine LLC’s permit to drill a new well into the company’s abandoned brine cavern to determine the structural status of the cavern and determine what pressures, gas or brine it currently contains.
Following last week’s order by Commissioner of Conservation Jim Welsh under a Declaration of Emergency he issued upon the development of the sinkhole, Texas Brine was given until the end of the day today to submit a complete permit for the drilling of a new well into the abandoned brine cavern or face $5,000 a day in fines each day until the permit was submitted.
“Texas Brine has met the requirement set for the company to have that permit submitted, but that is not the end of their responsibility,” Chustz said. “That emergency order also requires them to give us regular reports on the progress of the drilling and the methods they will use in determining the status of the cavern when they reach it. We will hold them to that requirement and ensure that we maintain transparency in these operations for the public throughout.”
Welsh said his Office of Conservation staff and scientists from a team pulled together from inside and outside the state of Louisiana have identified the abandoned cavern in the Napoleonville Salt Dome as the most likely cause of the sinkhole that developed approximately 200 feet from the site of the old cavern on August 2, and indicated that it may also be linked to the reports of natural gas bubbling in the area of Bayou Corne.
Mark Cartwright, president of Texas Brine, on Saturday informed state officials that the first deliveries of drilling equipment to the site to will arrive late Wednesday or early Thursday, with drilling to begin a few days later, once the rig is assembled and readied.
“There are no further regulatory approvals Texas Brine needs at this point,” Chustz said. “From here on, their timetable is only limited by their decisions, but we will be monitoring progress to ensure that they expedite the drilling of that well, while maintaining a safe operation.”