The Houston company that owns a failed salt cavern the Louisiana Office of Conservation blames for causing a sinkhole in Assumption Parish said it will comply with new orders calling for tests, monitoring and removal of natural gas trapped underground.
Conservation Commissioner James Welsh issued the four-page order Thursday night.
It came two days after scientists contracted by the state Department of Natural Resources presented information suggesting the sinkhole, failed cavern and natural gas in an aquifer and bubbling in waterways are linked and that the failed cavern caused the sinkhole. But scientists also warned more evaluation was to be done.
In a terse statement Friday afternoon, Sonny Cranch, Texas Brine Co. of Houston spokesman, confirmed the company received the directive from DNR late Thursday evening.
“We will comply with the commissioner’s order,” Cranch said. “We are currently studying the order and will be in communication with the department to discuss implementation.”
Cranch did not speak further or say whether the company accepts DNR’s findings.
In reaction to much of the data backing DNR’s conclusions, Cranch said Wednesday that it is yet to be accurately determined how the events are related.
The sinkhole was found early Aug. 3 in wooded swamps between Bayou Corne and Grand Bayou south of La. 70 South. People living in about 150 residences were ordered to evacuate. The residents have yet to return to their homes.
The slurry hole is just off the northwestern flank of the Napoleonville Dome, a 1-by 3-mile salt deposit. The large underground salt formation was pushed up vertically from ancient sea beds, and for decades, industry has used the dome for brine production. The perimeter also has been the focus of intensive oil and gas exploration.
The Texas Brine cavern is inside the dome near its western edge and about 200 feet away from the hole. The Texas Brine cavern was carved out of the dome to make brine and never used to store natural gas.
The order’s requirements include having Texas Brine maintain the stability of the cavern and sinkhole to prevent further changes, add wells to monitor water quality and pressure in the aquifer under the Bayou Corne area and determine the collapse’s nature and extent.
While the order lays the blame on Texas Brine’s cavern, Patrick Courreges, DNR spokesman, said Friday, the order does not deal with reimbursement of agency costs or establish legal liability.
He said the order deals with Texas Brine’s required response and establishes a basis for the response.
“Declaring a legally responsible party and issues of reimbursement will be made through a separate process in which the responsible party will be held accountable,” Courreges said.
The commissioner’s order lays out a lot of the evidence scientists working for Shaw Environmental and Infrastructure shared during the Tuesday meeting in Bayou Corne.
But the order also eliminates two more possible gas sources than were announced Tuesday, saying the sole gas source left is natural oil- and gas-producing deposits on the dome’s western edge. Oil and gas from the deposits rose to the surface due to the cavern failure.