Texas Brine Co. LLC installed equipment Wednesday designed to restart collection of crude oil and gas from a failed company salt cavern in the Bayou Corne area and to prevent the release of potentially dangerous hydrogen sulfide gas in the process, company officials said.
However, Sonny Cranch, spokesman for the Houston company, said oil and gas removal from the well that taps the cavern 3,400 feet underground will not resume until the new equipment is fully inspected by company consultants and state and parish agencies.
“We’re not going to do anything with the well until everyone signs off on how we’re handling this potential for H2S,” he said.
Hydrogen sulfide, a colorless gas that is potentially fatal at high enough concentrations, has a chemical abbreviation of H2S. The chemical is believed to have been found in crude from the well, and parish officials say they are awaiting the results from direct testing to verify that is the case.
Cranch said company officials don’t expect to start removing oil again until next week.
In a separate development, Texas Brine reported that three trees fell in along the southwest side of an 8-acre sinkhole on the company site between Grand Bayou and Bayou Corne, south of La. 70 South.
Cranch said the trees fell in overnight Tuesday and were discovered Wednesday morning when cleanup workers arrived. He said workers have removed most of the debris.
The new equipment includes a tank that will hold the removed oil, capture H2S fumes emitted by the oil and send the gas to a flare already designed to burn off methane at the site, Cranch and parish officials said. The oil can then be safely removed for recycling.
Scientists believe Texas Brine’s salt cavern in the Napoleonville Dome failed, releasing oil and methane gas from natural formations along the salt dome and creating the sinkhole. Some of that oil and gas ended up in the cavern but discovery of hydrogen sulfide from the well, believed to be coming from the oil, halted oil and gas removal last week.
A previous discovery of hydrogen sulfide in another well on Texas Brine’s site has prompted a planned permanent shutdown of that well.
State regulators have ordered Texas Brine to remove the oil and methane gas from the salt cavern to restore the environment and get things back to normal for the 350 residents evacuated from the area in northern Assumption Parish since the sinkhole was found Aug. 3.
Hydrogen sulfide has emerged as the latest public health worry from the running environmental incident, although authorities with the company and the state Department of Environmental Quality say only a small amount of H2S was emitted into the air from Texas Brine’s site, and then for only a few seconds.
Officials with the DEQ and the state Departments of Health and Hospitals plan a meeting at 6 p.m. Thursday at the new Assumption Community Center, 4910 La. 308, Napoleonville, to discuss a variety of public health concerns, parish officials said.
John Boudreaux, director of the parish Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness, said parish officials called for the public health talk after a community meeting last month.
“The last public meeting, there were many questions being asked in regards to public health, and to be able to address that fully, we scheduled this meeting tomorrow night to just deal with the public health issues,” he said.
Boudreaux said State Epidemiologist Raoult Ratard will make a presentation.
A general community meeting with updates on the sinkhole response is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, also at the community center.