Louisiana Sinkhole: Are more Caverns at Risk?

As a compliment to The Advocate and David Mitchell’s very perceptive writing skills, then I would like to present people with an alternate question.

Is there another cavern at more risk, than others?

Oxy Geismar #1 is the only super shallow brine mined salt cavern within proximity to Oxy Geismar #3, to the failed Texas Brine and owned by, Occidental Chemical Corporation cavern.

Why would it be more at risk? First we have to understand Oxy Geismar #3, it’s depths, dimensions, and width. Oxy Geismar #3 has a top cavern insert depth at 3400 ft. It was 150 ft. across at the top of the cavern. 300′ ft. at the bottom…we think.

Oxy Geismar #1 on the other hand has a top Cavern depth of 2492 ft. and a width of 344 ft. in the northwest directional survey.

OXY1 NW PIC

North West Side (left) pointing towards OXY 3

http://ucmwww.dnr.state.la.us/ucmsearch/UCMRedir.aspx?url=http%3a%2f%2fdnrucm%2fucm%2fgroups%2fconservation%2fdocuments%2fooc%2f4338319.pdf

If 900′ (previously 875′) feet away at the well head, as reported, then we are left with only 325-400 ft. between the two caverns, at marginally varying depths. The 2010 mill out of Oxy Geismar #3 was at 2350 ft., which struck the fault line in the same general area, causing it to become active, according to the position, and depth revealed in the 2007 Golden Gate/Grand Gulf proprietary 3 D survey. Since it is sitting upon the shale, then it is especially vulnerable to the seismic shaking taking place through the sedimentary rock layers, making the shallow cavern quite vulnerable to these forces.

A3D

Oxy Geismar #1 is the same cavern Louisiana Dept. of Natural Resources claims was spoken of in a 1995 Sandia Labs report entitled,

Neal, J. T. and T.R. Magorian. April 1995. Geologic Site Characterization (GSC) Principles Derived from Storage and Mining Projects in Salt, With Application to Environmental Surety. SAND95-2400J. Sandia National Laboratories, Albuquerque, NM.

This report clearly speaks of a cavern laying against the shale sheath, as evidenced in the below caption:

acavernsketch1997a

Since LDNR claims this is Oxy Geismar #1, and that they had no knowledge of said SANDIA  LABS report, then it seems logical that LDNR is accusing Sandia Labs and the two scientist’s of incompetence, for not forwarding this report to their office, for their attention, nor to the industry it involves, such as Salt Cavern Brine Mining, although fully available for any industry at all times, as well as SANDIA LABS working with all governmental authorities regarding local issues concerning the Geo Sciences.

http://www.sandia.gov/research/research_foundations/geoscience/

Please LDNR, give us all a break! None are as stupid, or negligent as you claim, with the exception of yourselves, of course.

In a recent Advocate article by David Mitchell, Mark Cartwright, former President of United Brine Services LLC, a subsidiary of Texas Brine LLC, now the Vice-President of Texas Brine LLC, had this to say;

“Texas Brine’s Cartwright said that even after the 2010 study, his company had no reason “whatsoever” to believe the side wall of the cavern would collapse.

And conventional wisdom held that at those depths, about 5,000 feet, any rupture would be contained by the surrounding rock, he said.

“In fact, I think at the end of this process you’re going to see some really interesting papers written by some very smart people that will revolutionize our belief about what can happen deep,” Cartwright said.”

http://www.goerie.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20130302/APN/1303020539

This is an outright lie, as when President of United Brine, Mark Cartwright was the very one that raised the alarm in the first place! 

“One obvious concern is the cavern’s proximity to the edge of salt,” Cartwright wrote to DNR’s Joseph “Joe” S. Ball Jr. “There have been several studies in this regard, and Texas Brine has mapped the salt boundary near the cavern applying available well log data, seismic data, and most recently, vertical seismic data gathered during the workover. At this time, a breach out of the salt dome appears possible.”

Source: http://theadvocate.com/home/3580029-125/dome-issues-kept-quiet

(Read Actual Letter Here) Take note the date of the letter is Jan. 21, 2011.

Ball is the director of the DNR Injection and Mining Division, which oversees salt caverns.

So, United Brine’s President Mark Cartwright spills the beans in no uncertain terms, then gets kicked up the ladder afterwards, and becomes Texas Brine’s Vice-President, and says… “We didn’t have a clue.” I’ll let your own discernment be your guide to the answer.

Is this a common sense approach? Most definitely. Mere supposition at this point would be futile, and counter-productive, and I wish to avoid such interpretation, due to the copius amounts of information now available to so many.

Keep an eye towards Oxy Geismar #1, for it is another engineering disaster waiting to happen.

Coming up next;

Could there be another contributing factor to this disaster as well? Mainly the Hooker Oil Drilling Well #1, just feet away from the Oxy Geismar #3 Salt Cavern, and over a 15 year period depleting the formation at the same depths as the bottom of Oxy Geismar #3.

We shall explore these possibilities in my next article.. Louisiana Sinkhole: Comedy of Errors?

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20 thoughts on “Louisiana Sinkhole: Are more Caverns at Risk?

  1. Comedy of errors all right! The same inept behavior and collusion that allowed BP to get away with all those safety violations. Oil and gas are here to stay so, there has to be some way to stop the carelessness and blatent disrespect for human life…and the environment. There is no excuse! These companies all have the money to follow proper safety regulations and to handle their messes up front. Your work is very valuable and much appreciated! I truly hope change comes from all of this mess!

  2. I just want to point out another worst case scenario that no one has even considered. What happens if they have to open up the Morganza Spillway again this year? With all these huge winter storms hitting the north, it’s highly likely that they will have to. Guess where the sinkhole is located. Yep, in the spillway. I don’t think the sinkhole could handle that amount of water. Plus, how would they contain all the toxic chemicals?

    What do you guys think?

    • It hasn’t been used but once before, but if they open those gates, then this is truly a doom and gloom forecast. Thanks for the good news…(sarcasm intended) 🙂

  3. Pingback: Louisiana Sinkhole: State Documentation Reveals that Radioactive Materials Were INJECTED into Five Additional Napoleonville Salt Dome Caverns | freedomrox

  4. Pingback: Seismic Event at Lake FUBAR Overnight + Weekend News | The Louisiana Sinkhole Bugle

  5. Hi all,

    the reason for failure of Napoleonville has been documented ALREADY in 2008 (!!!) as part of a failure analysis done by British Geological Survey (a source one should take seriously !).

    In chapter 2.2.1 it is said:

    2.2.1 Discussion:
    Two cases of problems encountered at salt cavern facilities (Clovelly and Napoleanville,Louisiana) were due to insufficient site characterisation [Evans, 2007], with the caverns having been built too close to the edge of a salt dome such that there was not enough salt ‘buffer’.

    The report can be found under

    http://www.hse.gov.uk/research/rrpdf/rr671.pdf

    From the standpoint of an experienced seismic interpreter and geophysicist, deeply involved in building a salt cavern storage, there is technically no more to debate about.

    It is much more a matter of lawyers.

    • Thank you, Mr. Otto. I have looking for that White Paper for a year. I have the Proof that Sandia knew, but Texas Brine used their Spin Doctor tactics, but let’s see what they will say now…Also, I have not published yet, but this is a much more perilous situation than at first blush. This unnatrual creation has sparked off a monster of geological proportions, and it cannot turn out well.

  6. According to what has been released to the public the frackout caused the overburden to breach. Someone may call it a vein or a fracture (a rhethoric attempt to minimize the whole mess). In fact it is a fault zone which manifested itself in a sinkhole of 400+ feet and gas and oil leaking through that zone.

    But every geoscientist learns by heart that there is no such SINGLE fault plane. In most of the cases it may lead to conjugate, secondary faults dipping in opposite direction. Opposite direction would mean updipping east/southeast towards OXY #1 and OXY #2. If you then further consider the steep slope at top caprock visible on some maps it gets even more interesting. That particular ‘plane’ again dips in the same direction as secondary faults may develop. So instead of having a massive brittle caprock that resists any ‘disturbance’ the caprock plane may act like a sliding plane. In that case the brittleness of the caprock will not matter at all. It will be just the friction coefficient between caprock and overlying or underlying strata which will play a role.

    All this is accompanied by numerous microseismic events (like a ‘natural’ land packer/ soil compactor) shaking with high frequencies; even in the vicinty of OXY #1 and #2.

    Please continue to carefully watch the pressure curves of OXY #1 and #2.

    …by the way: Subsidence experts, the ones who predict the sinking of the surface in advance for the lifespan of caverns oftenly assume the overburden of caprock to be elastic, homogeneous, isotropic and continuous. It’s like assuming the world to be a plate.

    • I so very much agree with you, Mr. Otto. Very good and simplistic take upon the geology shows without a doubt that several faults have been set off at depth and near surface, which definitely is a very fluid environment. Louisiana’s geology is very unique, and that which is found no where else on the planet. Thanks you so much for your input.

      • I can hardly accept anything like Louisiana’s geology is globally unique. Because this may easily allow the Texas Briners to use this as an excuse for not knowing in advance what was going to happen (and it had to happen…..and they knew in advance !). This is as well LDNR’s (and BP’s) strategy.

        Louisiana’s salt is as ductile as elsewhere (for instance Lower Saxony basin, Germany). Louisiana’s overburden of salt domes is as brittle (or non-brittle and faulted !!!) as elsewhere. It is the same physics and basically the same geological rules (for instance preexisting faults/shear zones in direct neighborhood of salt domes).

        Talking about physics: Gas is leaking through numerous faults and fractures in Napoleonville. This means that these zones are hydraulically open. Apart from gas migrating upward to the surface most probably fresh water (undersatured sea water) has been entering these disturbed zones as well; because the mixture of gas and water within these zones reduces the overall density thus being smaller than the density of invading fresh water.
        In the worst case fresh water may get in touch with the salt dome itself through these zones. How rocksalt reacts in such a case has been studied intensively in Lake Peigneur.

        Coming back to Louisiana’s unique geology: Among seismic interpreters we all know that basically each salt dome has its own, unique facets. This is what makes geological site characterisation of salt cavern storages mandatory. The owners of Napoleonville storage did it as well; don’t worry. I am ‘almost’ sure. 3D seismic (acquired in 2007), offset VSP (2010) …

        But they were not ‘able’ or ‘willing’ to speak up and raise their hands; nor willing to pay for filling up the sump with some cubic meters of concrete. That is much more a matter of culture. People who make things publically available are risking a lot these days.

        In good old Europe it is common practice to do lab analysis of the salt brine withdrawn from the caverns on a daily (!!!!) basis; simply because one can not acquire ultra sonics on more regular basis.

        If daily lab analysis has been done while leaching Napoleonville ? …then the lab data should clearly mirror the point when the injected fresh water got in touch with the shale sheath; because the amount a sediments within the brine withdrawn would have increased. Since leaching starts from the bottom they should have realized by the end of the very first leaching section while approaching the planned radius.

      • Mr. Otto,
        It is the very fact that Louisiana’s Geology is so unique, that it has become the most studied area on Earth. Rather than giving any excuse to TB’rs, it takes away most talking points, because Gagliano has been putting out paper after paper for years warning of the fragile faulting system and the migration paths due to the virtual maze of fault lines and their coinstituents. Other than that one point, then I agree, physics is physics.

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