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Preparation work resumes at Carlsbad Brine Well after layoff

Work at the Carlsbad Brine Well resumed in late August after a nearly 14-month layoff, said an official with the New Mexico Energy, Minerals, and Natural Resources Department (ENMRD).

ENMRD Oil Conservation Division (OCD) Environmental Bureau Chief Jim Griswold told members of the Brine Well Authority during a video conference meeting Sept. 21 that site preparation started Aug. 30 after $18 million was secured from the State of New Mexico, Eddy County and the City of Carlsbad.

Griswold said work paused at the former I&W Brine Well site located south of Carlsbad in July 2020 after ENMRD discovered a funding shortage.

Jim Griswold, environmental bureau chief at the New Mexico Oil Conservation Division discusses the project to remediate the Carlsbad Brine Well, April 23, 2019 at the Carlsbad Municipal Annex.

He said more than 76,000 cubic yards of sand was needed to fill in a massive void in the northern portion of the Brine Well located along U.S. Highways 285 and 62/180 where the South Y forms in Carlsbad.

“This week we are mobilizing to a Bureau of Land Management (BLM) sandpit to the northeast of town (Carlsbad). We’ve got a free use agreement with the BLM to provide us with sand at no material costs,” Griswold said.

He said using the BLM sand could save ENMRD some money.

More:State hopes Brine Well work resumes sometime this month

Before fill-in work begins, Griswold said crews would conduct sonar tests to see if any physical changes occurred in the northern portion during the layoff.

“It’s very important to see if the configuration of the cavern or the cavern roof itself changed over the period of time from July of 2020 to now, especially if there’s been any response to these seismicity issues,” he said.

Griswold said monitoring equipment at the Brine Well site detected scores of earthquakes in West Texas since July 2020.

A map from the New Mexico Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department shows the Carlsbad Brine Well site.

Eddy County Manager Allen Davis asked if the monitoring equipment noted any changes with the Brine Well cavern.

“The monitoring equipment has not shown any abrupt movement in the ground in that area in response to those earthquakes. Other than the earthquake itself,” Griswold said.

He said sonar logs would provide additional information on the cavity and its roof to determine if any movement was noted during the Texas earthquakes.