Bayou Frack-Out: The Massive Oil and Gas Disaster You've Never Heard Of
Reported in TruthOut (Dec. 6, 2012): Industry and state regulators ignored warning signs, then deflected blame when a salt cavern in Assumption Parish, Louisiana, collapsed into an 8-acre sinkhole.
A consulting engineer, brought in to study the situation, said, "In the oil field, you've heard of hydraulic fracturing; that's what they're using to develop gas and oil wells around the country ...What is a frack-out is, is when you get the pressure too high and instead fracturing where you want, it fractures all the way to the surface.... It's a tough problem. Nobody in the world has ever faced a situation like this that we're grappling with."
The article summarized the situation this way:
The first sign of the oncoming disaster was the mysterious appearance of bubbles in the bayous in the spring of 2012. For months the residents of a rural community in Assumption Parish wondered why the waters seemed to be boiling in certain spots as they navigated the bayous in their fishing boats.
Then came the earthquakes. The quakes were relatively small, but some residents reported that their houses shifted in position, and the tremors shook a community already desperate for answers. State officials launched an investigation into the earthquakes and bubbling bayous in response to public outcry, but the officials figured the bubbles were caused by a single source of natural gas, such as a pipeline leak. They were wrong.
On a summer night in early August, the earth below the Bayou Corne, located near a small residential community in Assumption, simply opened up and gave way. Several acres of swamp forest were swallowed up and replaced with a gaping sinkhole that filled itself with water, underground brines, oil and natural gas from deep below the surface. Since then, the massive sinkhole at Bayou Corne has grown to 8 acres in size.
On August 3, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal declared a statewide emergency, and local officials in Assumption ordered the mandatory evacuation of about 300 residents of more than 150 homes located about a half-mile from the sinkhole. Four months later, officials continue to tell residents that they do not know when they will be able to return home.