Louisiana Department of Natural Resources experts said they believe a well releasing natural gas near the Bayou Corne community is not the source of bubbles percolating in two northern Assumption Parish bayous, an agency official said Thursday.
DNR spokeswoman Phyllis Darensbourg said agency personnel familiar with petroleum exploration processes believe the well in question served long ago as a rig supply well, or a water well, and is not the source of the natural gas releases in the bayous.
Excavation around the well site Thursday by a DNR contractor also turned up indications the well was drilled to obtain underground water, according to John Boudreaux, director of the parish Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness.
Additional casing was not present that would have indicated the well was drilled to explore for oil and gas, he said.
The contractor is expected to work on the suspected water well several days, DNR officials said Thursday.
Agency officials do not plan to pull out the 4.5-inch diameter casing, Darensbourg said; there are indications it is 105 feet deep in the ground. The casing stub is sticking out of the ground.
On Monday night, state and parish officials observed bubbling around the well, in wooded swampland about 1,000 feet from the main bubbling activity on Bayou Corne, parish officials have said.
The well being excavated is south of La. 70 South about 2,200 feet from the nearest residence.
Since late May, the bubbling in Bayou Corne and Grand Bayou, coupled with repeated earth tremors in the vicinity, have concerned residents and prompted a series of tests of the area’s oil, gas and brine production infrastructure.
But determining the source of the bayou gas releases, and any potential connection to the tremors, has remained an elusive goal.
The underground natural gas is finding a way to vent into the atmosphere, Darensbourg said, but agency officials do not know the source of the gas.
Officials are discussing the possibility of a round of publicly funded tests to compare the composition of the gases inside nearby pipelines and salt dome caverns with the releases from the bayous and at the suspected water well, Boudreaux said
An earlier round of similar, fingerprinting tests paid for by industry did not show any sort of match, Boudreaux said.
New test results show the gas being released from around the suspected water well is natural gas, he added.
That gas remains at 35 percent of the lower explosive limit, the point at which an ignition risk would exist.
An LEL of 60 percent would require evacuations.
DNR officials also do not believe the well is what is called an “orphan well,” Darensbourg said, but she added the water well was drilled before such wells were required to be registered.
Using the term “orphan well” to describe an abandoned well is not correct, she added.
The Louisiana Legislature created the Oilfield Site Restoration Program in 1993 to plug and abandon and restore orphan oil and gas wells.
Orphan wells must be declared as orphaned by the commissioner of conservation when certain conditions exist, such as when no responsible party can be found to deal with the well or there is a risk to public health or the environment.
DNR’s statement about the well and the preliminary findings from the first day of excavation Thursday contradict what Boudreaux said Tuesday.
Boudreaux had said the well was the suspected source of bubbles and was an “old orphan well.”
At the time, Boudreaux also admitted the possibility the well was a water well and not the source of the bayou gas but a conduit for it.
On Thursday, Boudreaux defended Tuesday’s news statement, saying he issued it because he was trying to get information out as quickly as possible to concerned and skeptical residents.
Boudreaux said any hint the parish was delaying or waiting to say something would have been perceived as an attempt to hide information from the public.
“So we said what we had to say and got it out,” he said.