6:30 p.m. Update from DNR

BATON ROUGE – Louisiana Commissioner of Conservation James Welsh today brought in all companies operating on the Napoleonville Salt Dome to meet with the contractor hired by the Office of Conservation to oversee the evaluation and removal of any natural gas concentrations in the ground water aquifer near Bayou Corne.

The companies operating on the dome reported that they have already agreed to a joint cooperative effort led by a consultant experienced in working on the Napoleonville Dome, and developed an initial plan to evaluate the presence of natural gas under their facilities and remove it, if necessary.

The operators’ joint plan calls for – first, using existing records on the shallow geology of the area to find likely areas where natural gas would gather; two, make use of downhole sensing equipment in existing wells on their facilities to detect any natural gas that may be present; three, incorporate findings into an overall map of the spread of natural gas found; and fourth, install wells to vent, flare or collect natural gas safely if it is found.

The plan outlines the geologic mapping of the aquifer and salt dome cap rock and the assessment of natural gas around existing wells – with those two steps carried out concurrently. Some operators have already begun the process of using sensors to detect natural gas near their existing wells. The drilling of wells to remove natural gas, if needed, can begin during that same time period, once enough information has been gathered to determine best placement for those wells for safe operations.

Following the Office of Conservation’s hiring of the Shaw Group last week to assist in planning and management of the natural gas/evaluation effort, Welsh issued an order requiring all operators on the Napoleonville Salt Dome to evaluate the presence of natural gas in the ground water of the Mississippi River Alluvial Aquifer and the salt dome’s cap rock below their facilities and take actions necessary to protect public safety. The Office of Conservation has been working with the Shaw Group to develop a natural gas evaluation/removal program, and to expedite the effort by identifying and securing access to priority locations for those wells. The agency has continued to work in cooperation with Assumption Parish officials and members of the community to obtain permission from landowners to allow drilling and venting, as needed.

Welsh said that the Science Work Group, created to provide guidance for the responses to the ongoing situation in Assumption Parish, had given its approval on the plan to evaluate/remove natural gas in the aquifer.

The Science Work Group met earlier this week, focusing on the impending entry of the Texas Brine investigatory well in to the company’s abandoned brine mining cavern. The Office of Conservation assisted the group in its effort to determine appropriate testing, sampling and processes used to evaluate the cavern, its contents and its potential role in the ongoing situation.

As of late Thursday afternoon, the status of the investigatory well project was moving ahead with drilling at 3000 feet expected to intersect cavern within a day if no unexpected conditions arise.

Information on any Office of Conservation activities associated with the continuing response in Assumption Parish can be accessed through the “Bayou Corne” portal on the homepage of the state Department of Natural Resources website at http://dnr.louisiana.gov/.