Earthquakes felt near Carlsbad in March did not impact the Carlsbad Brine Well, according to the New Mexico Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department (ENMRD).
ENMRD said highly sensitive sensors at the brine well site detect the smallest vibrations, including small earthquakes in New Mexico and West Texas and larger earthquakes around the world.
“In March, there have been several earthquakes in southeast New Mexico and southwest Texas that have been felt in the Carlsbad area,” a news release stated.
The remediation contractor has been monitoring this earthquake activity and cavity stability and communicates regularly with the EMNRD and Carlsbad Fire Department regarding this earthquake activity and cavity status, per the release.
Susan Torres, ENMRD spokesperson, said earthquakes are a concern and a cavern at the Brine Well site located at south of Carlsbad where United States Highways 285 and 62/180 converge to form the South Y was not impacted by the recent seismic activity.
“The (New Mexico) Oil Conservation Division (OCD) is actively monitoring the situation and the monitoring equipment at the Brine Well site provides us with information about ground movement or any changes in pressure within the remaining cavern,” she said.
Carlsbad Mayor Dale Janway was comforted that the earthquakes did not cause any problems at the Brine Well.
“We are certainly relieved to learn that the extensive monitoring at the Brine Well location has indicated no additional disruptions caused by the recent earthquakes south of Carlsbad,”
Torres said before resuming backfilling operations, ENMRD intends to complete another sonar survey which will provide information about possible changes in the cavern’s size and shape since July 2020.
Sand deployment at the Brine Well was suspended at the end of July last year and the deployment equipment was removed from the site. The southern portion of the site is backfilled and stabilized, while the northern portion of the site is partially filled and partially stabilized, the ENMRD release noted.
Torres said work was paused after it was determined by the State last year more money would be needed for the clean up.
Original funding for the work was $54 million and was set aside from various sources and there was an estimated $5 million left for monitoring at the former I&W Brine Well Site.
Torres said the New Mexico Legislature approved an additional $20 million to resume work at the Brine Well.
“The governor’s office is still conducting bill review,” she said Thursday afternoon.
Janway said work at the Brine Well needs to resume quickly.
“And to the greatest extent possible. Letting this remediation process idle creates a serious safety risk and will only result in additional cost,” he said.
According to the ENMRD website, The Carlsbad Brine Well operated from 1978 to 2008 as a source of salt-laden water for use in oil well drilling. Fresh water was pumped into the subsurface to dissolve subsurface salt layers, creating a brine that was pumped out and trucked to the oil fields for use in drilling and completions. Removal of the salt created an underground cavity and a risk of collapse of the overlying ground.
“OCD recognized the hazard in Carlsbad after a brine well near Artesia collapsed in July 2008. A second brine well north of Loco Hills collapsed months later,” read the website.
It has been estimated that a similar collapse at the Carlsbad Brine Well could cause in excess of $1 billion in damages, affect an essential irrigation canal, a major highway intersection, a rail line, and multiple businesses and residences, per ENMRD’s website.
Mike Smith can be reached at 575-628-5546 or by email at [email protected] or @ArgusMichae on Twitter.