Sinkhole Geologist: The outer edge of the salt dome, best we can tell it’s gone… at the location of the cavern (VIDEO)

Published: October 24th, 2012 at 2:20 pm ET
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Follow-up to: Gov't Expert: Louisiana sinkhole disaster unprecedented anywhere in world — Nobody’s ever dealt with this before -- Not even any decent case studies that tell us how to proceed (VIDEO)

Assumption Parish, Louisiana Sinkhole Meeting, October 23, 2012:

Published: October 24th, 2012 at 2:20 pm ET
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  2. Gov’t Expert: Giant sinkhole now covers 12 acres, continues to expand — Growing parallel to edge of salt dome (VIDEO) March 19, 2013
  3. New sinkhole image shows ‘original edge’ of Napoleonville salt dome may be gone — Section thousands of feet tall (PHOTO) November 15, 2012
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37 comments to Sinkhole Geologist: The outer edge of the salt dome, best we can tell it’s gone… at the location of the cavern (VIDEO)

  • Cisco Cisco

    Looks like the good ole boys at Texas Brine violated their permit in expanding the cavern beyond safe practices engineering. WTF, they made the money operating the cavern, but the real serious costs to make it look nice (it can't ever be what it wss) will be borne by the taxpayers.

    "American capitalism and our 'free markets'"…The corporations privatize the profits, and socialize their losses.

    Is this a great county or what!


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  • enoughalready45 enoughalready45

    Texas Brine should have insurance. They should pay for it and raise the rates for every other company that they insure that has a salt dome to collect the funds needed. I hope we don't find out that we have somehow given this industry a break on liability the same way we have the nuclear industry. If the insurance company for Texas Brine has to pay they are going to do everything possible to say this is a "natural" disaster to reduce their liability.


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    • jec jec

      Yes some have already called this a "force Majure"..or natural disaster..Chevron for on. BUT first cause was Texas Brine..and an oil company drilling nearby as well. Wonder if the DNR..well the guy involved quit..but if they OKAY the drilling..the failure could be the government's price tag. Wonder, if like nuke plants..they have an insurance cap…anyone know?


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    • dosdos dosdos

      Texas Brine didn't do anything illegal. They got a permit to dump "gas waste" (fracking sludge) in the cavern, and they did so. That is 100% legal by federal law authored by Dick Cheney. There is no liability attached to their actions for any environmental consequences, including the sinkhole. They will walk away clean, without a single fine.


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      • We Not They Finally

        Not true that no liability! The geologist admitted right at the resident meeting, right on the YouTube, that the breach in the cavern (which is turn casued the sinkhole) was CAUSED BY OUT-OF-CONTROL HIGH-PRESSURE FRACKING! Listen to part 7, minute 9:00 on.


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        • PavewayIII PavewayIII

          'Fracking' is stimulating an oil or gas well by hydraulic fracturing the formation around the well bore and then propping the cracks open with something – usually sand. Cracking the rock for dozen(s) of feet around the well bore are intentional. Special types of fluid are used.

          'Frack-out' is like a blow-out. Something comes to the surface through below-ground fractures. It could be mud or oil or methane. The Macondo well had a frack-out. This cavern had a frack-out. Neither one had ANYTHING to do with hydraulic fracking. A frack-out is bad no matter what the reason – it's an accident. Nobody tries to make a well frack-out for any reason.

          A frack-out could be caused by fracking, but the well is destroyed and must be abandoned. The fracking company promptly gets sued by the well operator if they cause a frack-out. They rarely frack wells near the surface because of that.

          Fracking that reaches an aquifer will pollute it. Its not immediately apparent if or when that happens and people are right to be worried about anyone screwing around near their aquifers.

          "…They got a permit to dump "gas waste" (fracking sludge) in the cavern, and they did so…"

          Then it must be on the DNR site somewhere – I haven't seen it. SOMEONE must have a link if it exists. The NORM permit has nothing to do with fracking or fracking sludge. Is that what you're talking about?


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    • We Not They Finally

      But they have already admitted that it is NOT a natural disaster, but instead, CAUSED DIRECTLY BY FRACKING! Go to part 7 of the resident meeting, minute 9:00 on, where the geologist ADMITS that out-of-control high-pressure fracking CAUSED the cavern to crack, which in turn caused the sinkhole!!


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    • We Not They Finally

      But they admit right at the resident meeting that this was NOT a natural disaster! That it was directly caused by high-pressure out-of-control fracking, causing a "frack-out," which then breached the cavern and caused the sinkhole. It's right on the YouTube! Part 7, minute 9:00 on.


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      • PavewayIII PavewayIII

        Dr. Hecox is explaining 'frack-out' by describing one way they can be caused – by fracking an oil well with too high of a pressure and causing the crack to come to the surface. He's explaining that the cavern wall cracked / fractured / ruptured because of too much pressure, not because they were fracking. Nobody does that in a brine well. The well had been plugged and abandoned for a year before the west wall failed. Nobody was fracking that well or doing anything to it.

        The drilling company usually does not do the fracking – there are other oilfield service companies that come out to do that. Texas Brine never hired a fracking crew for that well or got a permit to frack. Even the LA DNR wouldn't be stupid enough to give them such a permit for a brine well. It would serve no purpose.


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  • CoffeeGrinder CoffeeGrinder

    Help me out here… by saying the edge of the salt dome is gone, are we saying the salt dome is gone? Until this, I was picturing a sort of broken cavern-within-a-cavern.


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    • PavewayIII PavewayIII

      The Napoleonville Salt Dome is 1 x 3 miles across the top, and at least a mile deep. That's a huge, solid chunk of salt. It's sticking out of the Louann Salt Deposit, which is a huge sheet of salt a mile down that runs across the whole Gulf coast.

      The well/cavern (Oxy #3) is a long, thin tube they dissolved from the salt. The top starts almost a half-mile down inside the salt – nowhere near the top of the salt dome structure – and goes down to about one mile. I think it was 300' in diameter at its largest point.

      Texas Brine *thought* the cavern they dissolved was plenty far inside the salt dome when they made it. It turns out that the west side of the salt dome (the whole chunk of salt) was not straight up and down. It curved inward starting a few thousand feet down, then curved back out. That meant Texas Brine's well was not hundreds of feet from the edge of the salt all the way down. Parts of it were within a few feet of the west side. They couldn't tell this from inside the well when they were mining it. They only try to make sure the cavern is centered and the walls are straight when seen from the inside.

      Somewhere along the bottom third of the cavern (somewhere in 4500 – 5000 feet) the thin remaining wall of salt on the west side fractured and let mud and rocks fall into the cavern, and brine was pushed out. The whole west side of the dome is fine except for that hole going into the cavern. Mud from above slid down the outside wall = sinkhole.


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    • dosdos dosdos

      The strata at the edge of the dome was already fractured before anyone started mining the salt dome. Texas Brine did surveys and mined any way, staying away from the wall. They drilled the brine cavern as deep as they usually do and drew brine from the cavern until the brine became too weak in saturation because of the size of the cavern they created. This is typical of brine mining. Drill a well, mine until the brine gets weak because the cavern is too large in diameter to produce fully saturated brine on a schedule. When they're done, they drop in waste storage and cap the well.

      This is what Texas Brine did, and the fracking sludge they dumped in there deteriorated the cavern out to the edge of the dome, where it began to fill with crude oil and stratafied sands. The material that filled the cavern left a void in the strata, and gravity pulled down earth from above, creating a sinkhole. All the seismic activity noted in the area for over a year was the sinking of the earth into the voids. Crude oil, natural gas, and brine came to the surface to fill the sinkhole and make bubbles and infect the aquifer. (Natural gas is primarily methane.)

      There is no way to fix it except clean it up as best they can as the oil and contaminants surface. Gravity will eventually fill the voids and the holes in geological time. After all, it is in the Mississippi delta, so it will fill relatively quickly in geological time. But that's it.


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      • PavewayIII PavewayIII

        "…They drilled the brine cavern as deep as they usually do and drew brine from the cavern until the brine became too weak in saturation because of the size of the cavern they created…"

        More salt is exposed the wider and taller the cavern becomes. They solution mine from bottom to top targeting a certain cavern diameter. I never heard of a salt solution mine being abandoned because the returned brine saturation was dropping. In fact, they usually rework a brine well by putting larger diameter production strings in place of smaller ones to push *more* water through.

        "…and the fracking sludge they dumped in there…"

        Why do you keep repeating this without giving some kind of a source or justification?

        "…deteriorated the cavern out to the edge of the dome…"

        A brine well operator is going to put unsalted fracking waste in a salt cavern? How much of this, volume-wise, was there suppose to have been?

        I would think the DNR would be interested in knowing this since Texas Brine didn't permit the well for disposal. Why wouldn't they have Shaw look for evidence of fracking waste, or why would Shaw overlook that if it was present? That's a completely different stew of toxic chemicals than crude oil. It should be easy for their lab to see that in the samples.


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      • We Not They Finally

        Thanks for the geology lesson. EXCEPT…. go to Part 7 of the resident meeting, minute 9:00 on, where the geologist admits that the sinkhole was caused by the salt cavern being fractured, which in turn was caused by the too-high pressure of out-of-control fracking!! He admits right on the YouTube that FRACKING CAUSED THIS DIRECTLY!! So where are the suits for damages for destroying that part of Louisiana? And where is the publicity that FRACKING DIRECTLY CAUSED THIS?


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        • PavewayIII PavewayIII

          People can listen for themselves and decide if you are misquoting him and taking his words out of context. He's a geologist, not a politician. He's trying to explain technical things about the cause of the sinkhole to people that are affected by it.

          Why are you so insistent on dissecting his words to confuse this with an entirely different issue?


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    • We Not They Finally

      Yes, the edge is gone and now it keeps spreading West. They haven't a clue how to fix it. It is also admitted directly on the YouTube of the resident meeting, that the breach of the cavern was CAUSED by out-of-control high-pressure FRACKING! Listen to part 7, minute 9:00 on. Well worth the listen.


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  • jec jec

    Think they are saying the side of the salt dome..which encased the Texas Brine cavern..has weakened and then fractured into the cavern. Or a blow out into the Texas Brine cavern. Just my two cents. So the oil and gas..is coming up thru that fracture into the TB cavern..and then up to the surface..no clue how to fix it…


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  • kalidances

    @CoffeeGrinder they won't admit to anything but all of these new wells needed to vent the increasing levels of gas is worrisome

    http://www.wafb.com/story/19906021/new-wells-being-drilled-at-giant-louisana-sinkhole-site

    "Two new drilling wells are being installed near the Bayou Corne sinkhole site. SHAW has already installed three wells east and west of the site and will be putting another one on its property not far from there.

    Assumption Parish Office of Emergency Preparedness officials say the wells will be used to vent off more gas.

    Meanwhile, a geologist is comparing the size of the sinkhole to the sediment inside the compromised cavern to determine how much bigger the sinkhole could get over time.

    "Sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night wondering if they are going to give us money to relocate or what they are going to do," said Donald Gros, Bayou Corne resident.

    The Department of Natural Resources Commissioner has ordered Texas Brine to present a plan and timetable to the state by November 13.


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    • We Not They Finally

      Lots of stories out there. But go to Part 7 of the resident meeting, minute 9:00 on, where the geologist ADMITS THAT FRACKING CAUSED the "FRACK-OUT" WHICH CRACKED THE SALT CAVERN WHICH IN TURN CAUSED THE SINKHOLE!! They admit that fracking caused this DIRECTLY! Right on the YouTube!!


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  • krugthecaveman krugthecaveman

    I think it's much worse than a fracture. With the way all of the officials comments and the amount of slough in they seem to be saying side completely caved (in/out). With that massive new fracture line seems the cap/roof next?


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    • dosdos dosdos

      The big question is how much fracking sludge did Texas Brine dump into the cavern. I don't think they dumped enough to compromise the entire dome, else there would have already been problems in the butane caverns to the east of the Texas Brine cavern. So it's not likely that the cap will drop from damage to one area on one side. Odds are, the cavern will fill with strata sands that are rich in crude oil and natural gas, and the dome will stabilize. It is the area around the dome that is unstable now. The key will be the amount and intensity of seismic activity in the future. If it increases, the dome may be in trouble. But it seems to be sporadic and not getting stronger. So for now, the cap will probably remain in place.

      One thing is sure, the town of Bayou Corne is dead. People will not be safe there for many years to come.


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    • We Not They Finally

      Not at all surprised. But that is also one of the shockingly brain-dead things thrown at the public during the resident meeting linked above. It sounds like they are saying o.k., don't be worried about methane going into the aquifer — at least it's not oil! Like let's all drink methane and that's just fine?


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  • We Not They Finally

    URGENT!!: Everyone go to Part 7 of the resident meeting linked above. Go to minute 9:00 and onwards in Part 7. A resident asks, "What is a frack-out?" Which the geologist had just said CAUSED the sinkhole. And he replies that in hydro-fracking, a frack-out is caused WHEN THE PRESSURE APPLIED BY FRACKING IS TOO HIGH!!! And that THAT IN TURN CAUSED THE SINKHOLE!! It is admitted right on the YouTube, directly, that out-of-control fracking caused this!! NOT a natural disaster. Fracking directly CAUSED the sinkhole!!


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  • Radio VicFromOregon

    Many of us assumed this was a fracking incident from the beginning, but, this may confirm that assumption. I get the whole drilling through earth, then, salt, then earth again, but, that doesn't destroy the entire wall structure of a cavern, nor create a giant sink hole. That would create an isolated seep at the location of the sediment layer transition. Not dissolve salt cavern walls. Fracking is inherently seismically dangerous and the desire to do it has gone ahead of the testing to make sure it is a stable method of extraction. Time and again it is showing up in people's kitchen sinks, wells, rivers, and now, sink holes in bayous. Had this been an honest mistake by a reputable company who had done all due diligence to meet all safety limits, we would have known by that afternoon who was responsible. Instead, it has been a slow hunt down umpteen rabbit holes. The Sheriff kept returning the public's attention to the dangers and making public announcements in the local papers about fracking fluids, methane, and such. Good for him. He probably had s good idea what was afoot from the start.


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  • GlowInTheDark GlowInTheDark

    So everyone's not worried about the huge underground city that exists under Texas and Denver? It really isn't a good idea to dig a huge space if a country experiences frequent earthquakes. Even I can think that much *eyeroll*


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  • PhilipUpNorth PhilipUpNorth

    Back on topic for just a second, if I might. For a number of days, we have seen flyover videos of a path or crack through the woods near the sinkhole. This crack has become wet, and is now under water. This may mean that the land here is sinking, and that this path may become the eventual edge of the sinkhole as it expands.
    http://m.youtube.com/watch?feature=plcp&v=LHopznUkmNU
    This path has now reached the service road to the sinkhole pad, and is clearly underwater all the way back to the gas pipeline right-of-way. At the service road, the end of this path is an estimated 200 yards from one of the three butane wells. I sure hope they have had time to empty the butane from that cavern. Can you say "boom"?


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  • irhologram

    So If I may get this straight, the frack out or breach caused by pressure, was pressure from methane which caused the earthquakes, which caused the breach in the wall of the salt dome? How does that explain the failed bottom? I suppose it, too, was fissured or fracked out by methane one mile down coming up? There is something about this geologist expert that REALLY bothers me. He DID NOT KNOW THE METHANE BUBBLES CAME FIRST, before the earthquakes. We ALL knew that…we ALL knew the area had been bubbling for months. Would this not be a significat part of any theory? And this guy just learns of it from the audience he's trying to inform? I can see why he may have confused people with the term "frack out" because his grasp on the situation seems tenuious.


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  • jec jec

    I think the cavern failed because it was too close to the edge of the dome–the brine or whatever also eroded the area, and weaked the side. When the TB cavern failed it allowed gases/crude used to seal the cavern to leak out, the pressure inside dropped. Then when the methane (from the oil production areas.) and oil reached a greater pressure than inside the cavern..the side(s) caved into the void(s). Then like a soda straw in a pressured bottle..the oil/gases from the production areas just started to come up and out. Just as I understand the sequence, of course..Now Chevron really figured this out at the beginning and called for a "force majure"-they knew of the potential…
    Without Texan Brines cavern failure..this would not have happened. The tremors are just areas of salt dome collapse making themselves heard above ground. On that comment..what was the LARGE tremor felt there a night ago? No one is talking..we know they have seismic devices there..and USGS reported it. So someone recorded and knows what the $%#$ is going on down there.


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