BAYOU CORNE — Texas Brine Co. officials said Monday that crude oil collection from the company’s damaged salt cavern in northern Assumption Parish was halted over the weekend when indications surfaced that a majority of the crude had been collected.
Sonny Cranch, spokesman for the Houston company, said collection was stopped about midday Saturday when a mixture of brine and oil began to come out of an observation well that Texas Brine drilled into the formerly plugged and abandoned cavern.
“They feel they’ve gotten the majority of the hydrocarbons out,” Cranch said.
An estimated 1,500 barrels were removed.
State Department of Natural Resources officials and private industry scientists working for the agency have said the cavern failure led to a 4.2-acre sinkhole nearby and to natural gas releases into the aquifer under the Bayou Corne area, as well as crude on the sinkhole’s surface.
An Oct. 11 order from state Office of Conservation Commissioner James Welsh noted the possibility of additional gas and oil movement into the aquifer and ordered Texas Brine to take “any and all necessary actions” to assess and abate safety and environmental threats.
Last week, Texas Brine officials said they were pumping brine into the cavern — 3,400 feet underground inside the Napoleonville Dome — to push the crude to the surface and to replace it with the brine to keep the cavern stable.
The Napoleonville Dome is a 1-by-3-mile solid salt deposit pushed up from a salt bed left by ancient seas.
Crude removal is one of several steps the company and parish and state officials are trying to restore a sense of normalcy to the Bayou Corne community, which has been evacuated more than two months because of the sinkhole.
Officials plan a community meeting 6 p.m. Tuesday at St. Joseph the Worker Catholic Church hall, 3304 La. 70 S., in Pierre Part.
John Boudreaux, director of the parish Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness, said Monday that discussion will include concerns about possibly other voids or gaps underground from the cavern failure.
The existing sinkhole, also known as a slurry area, is located south of La. 70 South between Bayou Corne and Grand Bayou on property leased to Texas Brine.
Discovery of the sinkhole early on Aug. 3, which arrived with complaints of a strong petroleum smell, led to a mandatory evacuation of the Bayou Corne community the same evening. The order affects about 150 homes, and its end date is uncertain.
DNR officials and private industry scientists working the agency have said the cavern’s lower wall failed and the breach allowed sediments, oil and gas from natural underground formations next to the Napoleonville Dome enter the cavern.
Boudreaux and parish Sheriff Mike Waguespack have pointed out that the volume of the sinkhole is about 2.7 million cubic yards smaller than the amount of subterranean earth believed to have entered the cavern, leading to worries about the voids and additional subsidence in the area.
Welsh’s order calls for seismic testing that could see whether such voids do exist.