Officials admit crude oil and methane are coming from massive underground formation below sinkhole

Published: October 15th, 2012 at 2:47 am ET


According to the state’s declaration below, formations of crude oil and methane (natural gas) are the only sources still being mentioned for the crude oil and gas surfacing around the sinkhole

Louisiana Department of Natural Resources, October 11, 2012:

Watch the most recent flyover video of the sinkhole area from earlier today here

Published: October 15th, 2012 at 2:47 am ET


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30 comments to Officials admit crude oil and methane are coming from massive underground formation below sinkhole

  • WindorSolarPlease

    I think it's time everyone including the highest official admit there is a problem and what could happen. Preventive steps (like in nuclear plants) should take place, as a cautionary step.

    I'm getting more information here than in the media, that needs to change.
    Louisiana is a State in our Country, the people need and has the right to know more about this.

  • Usefulbreather

    The Parish has already acknowledged that the crude oil and bubbling methane are coming from the same source due to isotopic tests. The Coast Guard was able to determine the correlation between the new sheen reported over the Macondo Well on 9/16 and the capped BP well within less than a month. Why is it taking the Parish over five months to determine the nature of the hydrocarbons and the fingerprint of their source. Is the Coast Guard just faster at these tests? From the sound of this report, it seems the DNR is making its assertion based on the process of elimination. Where are the chemical tests fingerprinting the source of the hydrocarbons, that are used by both industry and the Coast Guard?

    • dosdos dosdos

      Well, the chemicals surfacing keep changing profile. The first chemicals were from fracking sludge, acetone, benzine, methyl chloride, etc, and the radioactive deposits. Now the chemicals are from the veins of petroleum deposits that border the dome. It started with the cause of the problem, now it's the results of the problem coming to the surface. The game keeps changing.

      Besides, DNR permitted Texas Brine to dump the fracking sludge into the cavern, and they are looking for a way not to get egg on their face. That takes time and quiet caution to spin a tale that covers their rears.

      • richard richard

        i mostly agree dosdos, but i don't know that the dumping was the cause.

        what texas brine have done is taken advantage of a salt mine. but if the water table is rising through climate change, it's not really their fault, but it's highlighted what they're dumping.

        time will tell i suppose. looking back a pics from a couple of months ago, the situation has grown considerably – and probably out of control.

      • Thad

        DOSDOS – can you document "The first chemicals were from fracking sludge, acetone, benzine, methyl chloride, etc, and the radioactive deposits." Because no one with DNR, TxBrn, has shown any of this. Shaw has not detected nor the resident have ever heard of this. Fracking sludge from where?? No frack within 450-500 miles.
        They need your proofs – if real – for their suits against all the villians–

  • BreadAndButter BreadAndButter

    Holy crap, what a mess. Can someone please verify if I understand this correctly: the drawing above is a vertical section.
    The big green thingie in the middle is on its way to total collapse, which allows the substances shown by coloured lines to move upwards one by one / alltogether in mixture.

    *peace all

  • Radio VicFromOregon

    Ok, i'm still confused…sooo…the salt dome is a hollow cavern filled with fracking fluid. The outside walls or nearby sands are oil sands and these various drillers have wells going into the sands. Maybe a drill went too far and punctured the salt dome? Maybe something else, but, my point is, the drillers were allowed to drill on the outside of a salt dome used for the "safe" (and i use that term lightly) storage of extremely deadly and hazardous materials? Is this close?

    • PavewayIII PavewayIII

      The cap rock on top of salt dome is dome-shaped, not the top of the salt finger itself.

      The actual top of the salt (at Napoleonville) is pretty flat. The bare salt structure would look more like a salt plateau. Viewed from the top, it has sort of an oblong or oval shape.

      Imagine the side view of the salt plateau again. If you then added the cap rock on top of the salt, the entire structure would look like a rounded mushroom. The cap rock is a little larger in diameter, and sort of dome-shaped. It covers the flat plateau of the salt.

      The old-timers didn't know that. They just figured the salt underneath had the same general shape as the cap rock: domed.

  • Radio VicFromOregon

    Please bear with me…so, they've eliminated a whole list of folks that aren't on this map. I must assume that some on the list, at least, would be right in there with the remaining drillers in close proximity to the salt dome. They had to test everyone's product to rule them in or out, which is why things took so long. Of the remaining drilling "caverns" i guess they call them, at least one of them is leaking, if not directly into the salt dome, then up beside it, or more likely both. The butane folks from Crosstex via Texasbrine storage have been asked to remove the butane for safety purposes and put in down the road into a different cavern about 1000 feet away. Texasbrine is also taking fluid from the sinkhole itself, the top stuff, and putting into open air containment pools to evaporate the fumes off. The salt dome was filled with fracking fluid that may or may not be related to the adjacent drilling. No obvious safety measures were instituted by any parties as far as i can see in this cluster f–k. This madness was all perfectly legal.

    • PavewayIII PavewayIII

      Oil and gas companies drill outside the perimiter of the salt domes to reach the upward-tilted strata and whatever hydrocarbons are trapped there. They pipe natural gas somewhere else for processing. They usually store crude in surface tanks after pumping it and get it hauled away. If a company is producing a lot of crude, they might build a pipeline to a refinery.

      Brine companies and storage companies drill inside the perimeter of the dome because they want to go directly into the solid salt. Neither one is looking for gas or oil. Texas Brine was trying to convert #3 from a producing brine well into a storage cavern.

      Oil and gas companies 'rent' storage caverns for all kinds of hydrocarbons. Usually natural gas or natural gas liquids (like butane, propane, etc.). Those are not usually the same companies producing gas or oil from wells outside the perimeter of the same dome. Caverns hold so much that the storage companies usually have a connection to one of the dozens of nearby pipelines.

      • Maggie123

        Pavewaylll – As always – thank you for your description. I'm not yet clear on details when an oil/gas company contracts for storage within a dome.

        The material to be stored is contained inside some kind of material -appropriate cylinder – yes? – not just pumped generally into the cavity to fill the space however it likes. (??)


        • PavewayIII PavewayIII

          No containers of any kind, Maggie. These are bulk liquids or gasses delivered by the huge pipelines that criss-cross the area. The hydrocarbons can be pumped in and out fairly quickly (considering their size). That's important when a customer wants a storage company to hold a million barrels of something. The customer has to schedule and 'rent' the pipeline route for the days it takes to get their product to the cavern. They

          Solution-mined salt caverns are huge, clean and water-tight. Aside from this one, I don't recall any other storage caverns failing in such a manner. I'm not a fan – just saying that their safety record seems better than the nuclear reactors so far.

          They are capable of holding heavier-than-air natural gas products or semi-pressurized gas liquids, as well as most kinds of refined oil liquids. The cavern environment is temperature-stable (cool) and can easily be made oxygen-free. None of those hydrocarbons react with salt or saturated brine. The main salt mass produces fractures over time. That's expected. They are not big enough to leak anything in or out if they reach the storage cavern, and sort of weld themselves back together naturally in a few months.

          Gas or hydrocarbon liquids can be lifted out by pumping brine back into the cavern. It sinks to the bottom and pushes the product back up. Pumping oil or gas back in to the cavern forces the brine back out. There's no air pockets to worry about.

          • Maggie123

            Wow, amazing, and thanks so much, Pavewaylll. No wonder the salt domes have been so attractive to industry!

            Hmm …

            Combined with your observation: "Aside from this one, I don't recall any other storage caverns failing in such a manner." – the cause for puzzle and mystery seems clear!

            (Well, except for the 'too close to edge' drilling – and I guess that can make (has made) all the difference.)

            I'm not trying to sort this out conclusively myself, am letting you people who've got background understanding work on it … but I deeply appreciate opportunity to better understand. Thanks!

  • The big picture makes me tremble .
    I am looking into the effects of 'sour gas ' which is how the methane leaking is described .
    The effects are very unhealthy, and can lead to death in concentrations above 100 ppm.
    I keep seeing those trees dying …

    • JustmeAlso

      How can humans think of staying alive as the only survivors when we see everything dying around us due to human activity?

    • moonshellblue moonshellblue

      Methane is escaping everywhere across the US and as they continue Fracking it will not get any better. JMHO

    • Thad

      Mission what is killing the trees is the salinity of the water in the sinkhole- brine/ saturated salt water has leaked over from the TxBrn cavern

      • Maggie123

        Thad – just caught your explanation of tree die-off. Makes perfect sense. Possibly subtle signs of s.w. damage were displayed early by tree health but not noticed. In any case – thanks, a vague question on tree die-off has wafted in my mind all along.

  • Cataclysmic Cataclysmic

    Ring around the rosie.. I mean salt dome.. If you have been wondering where the edges are, here is the new picture with the dome outlined.. you can clearly tell, that the sinkhole is on the edge.. visualizing the entire dome collapse is daunting.,_10-12-12_fi_498.jpg

    If you are curious where the butane is, compare above to this one..


    So what we have is naturally occurring gas and crude oil coming from natural deposits deep in the earth that are escaping to the surface because a naturally formed cavern collapsed due to rain water. Caverns like this have been collapsing and forming sink holes for EONS.

    • GeoHarvey

      I am pretty sure you are wrong here.
      The caverns are not natural. They were produced by a brine process go remove salt in the salt dome.
      As far as I know, no one has suggested rain had anything to do with the problem.
      Caverns have not been collapsing and forming sinkholes in salt domes for eons. A few sinkholes have happened at salt domes in the past, after salt had been removed by the brine process.
      One reason salt domes are used for storage is that they are so stable. They were stable anyway, until people changed them.
      The hydrocarbons are from sources yet to be determined. Whether they are connected to the various operations at the salt dome is unknown. It looks like they might be natural hydrocarbons that are coming to the surface because of human activity, when you look at some data. But if they are natural, they might have leaked because of human action.
      It is not safe to jump to conclusions. We do not know what is causing this mess. I am not half so worried about that as I am about where it will go from here.

      • WindorSolarPlease

        Agree GeoHarvey…Good question, where will it go from here.

      • PavewayIII PavewayIII

        "…They were stable anyway, until people changed them…"

        They're all still pretty stable. This one cavern was way too close to the very edge of the salt. The sand, oil, rock, etc. fell into the cavern from the side. The West-most 500' of the dome is unstable. The other three miles to the East are not going anywhere.

        "…The hydrocarbons are from sources yet to be determined…"

        It's crude oil and natural gas that is not like any of the semi-refined products stored in Napoleonville. There are no crude pipelines on that side of the dome. That rules out any man-made sources inside or outside the dome. There are well-known crude and gas traps all around the outside edges of the salt dome that have been productive for decades. Seems reasonable that they are the source.

        "…But if they are natural, they might have leaked because of human action…"

        There's three million cubic yards of something at the bottom of the cavern that Texas Brine said was not there before. The cavern ceiling did not collapse. Again, it's reasonable to conclude the excessively-thin West wall collapsed into the cavern.

        If it wasn't Dugas & LeBlanc's offset drilling, then it was Texas Brine trying to squeeze one more cavern into their little patch of land and then rushing and botching the P&Aing. One way or the other, its another 100% man-made disaster.

        • Radio VicFromOregon

          GeoHarvey and Pavewaylll, thx for your input and knowledge. I'm just now getting my mind around this multiple use practice of storing hydrocarbons next to where another business is extracting hydrocarbons next to where another is pumping out brine water making a cavern and using the brine for plastics, then refilling the manmade cavern with chemicals and fracking fluids and perhaps a few unmentioned, best left unsaid things, all under what appears to be a lovely treed bayou surrounded by houses. Again, i'm from Oregon and we don't even let coal trains run through here. Heck, you can't even open a gas station without putting in double-lined tanks and most areas of Oregon are off limits. We have high water tables in parts of the state and along the coast, but, nothing like the salty, mushy, loamy, boggy land in Louisiana. A new septic would run $15k to $20k here. We have land use planning and lots of public transportation along with one of the most extensive recycling programs in the nation. And, i thought things were getting environmentally worse here. Perspective is everything.

  • arclight arclight


    Oil Spill Causes Short-Term Damage to Rat DNA, Implications for the Gulf?

    “The new study of rats shows a direct link between respiratory exposure to compounds discharged by the fuel and damage to genetic material. In order to analyse the possible alterations to the DNA and its repair processes, the researchers took blood samples from each animal and carried out cytogenic tests.”

    "It must be borne in mind that certain higher risk groups, such as children, pregnant women and those suffering from cardiorespiratory illnesses “should avoid exposure to fuel as much as possible,” Valdiglesias concludes."

  • Anonymouse

    For those who are unaware-
    not only is methane flammable it is LETHAL and
    will quickly kill you if the concentration is strong enough.

    Any exposure should be avoided.

    The radioactive waste,extreme seismic activity for the area
    and incredibly dangerous large quantities of LNG,CNG,butane and propane are
    beyond comprehension.

    It is utterly reprehensible that is suffering an almost entire media blackout.

    • WindorSolarPlease

      Hi Anonymouse

      If by chance Fukushima doesn't get you, then you have the Gulf/the Sinkhole Disaster, all the other fracking, drilling, other nuclear plants that will help.

      The media blackout is not for our benefit. I agree it is utterly reprehensible.

    • Thad

      Anonymouse – methane is not toxic. It will suffocate if in a trapped in a closed space and all air has been displaced–