Need To Minimize Risks of Using Salt Caverns for the Strategic Petroleum Reserve

EMD-78-25: Published: Jan 9, 1978. Publicly Released: Jan 9, 1978.

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The Energy Policy and Conservation Act requires the Federal Energy Administration (FEA) to create a strategic petroleum reserve to protect against interruptions in energy and petroleum product supplies. Oil for the reserve will be stored in caverns within salt domes and in salt and limestone mines. FEA identified nine potential sites--four salt domes, three salt mines, and two limestone mines--with capacities totalling 402 million barrels. Three of the four salt domes have been acquired through condemnation.

FEA permitted the previous operators of the caverns at Bayou Choctaw and West Hackberry, Louisiana, to continue production of brine after the caverns were tested and certified as suitable for crude oil storage. In order to preclude potential problems associated with continued brining at Bayou Choctaw and West Hackberry, FEA should negotiate with the the chemical companies to eliminate brining operations. FEA officals believe that there is no need to control brine production or to retest the caverns after brining is completed since they consider cavern damage to be low risk. Two tests are necessary to determine cavern suitability--a sonar survey and a casing and cavern pressure test--which would take about 2 weeks per cavern and cost $15,000 per cavern, a total of $90,000.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Energy should: (1) determine the feasibility of amending the condemnation agreements to eliminate continued brining operations; (2) institute a formal system for controlling the brining operations if the agreements are not amended to ensure that brine is not being produced in excess of safe rates of production and operating pressures; and (3) have the caverns retested after brining has been completed.

    Agency Affected:


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