Council OKs St. John drilling

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, February 26, 2008


Staff Reporter

LAPLACE – A Lafayette oil and gas company recently received approval from the St. John Parish Council to begin a seismic exploration survey to determine the prospect of fuel extraction in the area.

During a presentation in front of council members, Merlin Oil and Gas, Inc., received a letter of no objection from the parish to conduct a 3D seismic survey of land underneath eastern parts of the parish, from the area around Highway 51 to the parish line. The project’s outline will also include most of St. Charles Parish.

Ian McGill, project manager for Merlin Oil and Gas, said a geophysical survey of this kind is an early stage venture in the company’s search for oil and gas in the area.

“What we are doing is making a map of the layers of land under the surface,” said McGill. “We are looking for rock structures that typically contain hydrocarbons.”

McGill said officials with Merlin have spent the past few weeks laying out receivers in locations throughout the testing area. He said many of the receivers, which look like small microphones, are positioned in area neighborhoods.

These receivers will collect data from seismic charges the company will send through the land layers in an effort to acquire velocity levels. The source of the seismic charge will be by dynamite blasts that are detonated underground.

“To determine what the layers are, we need to stimulate the subsurface levels,” said McGill. “Every medium, whether it be limestone, shale, etc., has a different velocity. The blasts send vibrations through the layers to determine what the layers are.”

McGill told the council that Merlin Oil has attained permits from the state and federal levels, and the company is working closely with area commercial enterprises to acquire permits to blast in those areas. He also said that adequate permission would be acquired before the operations begin.

Paul Oncale, director of Public Safety for St. John Parish, told the council that he accepts Merlin Oil’s request, but set forth some extra conditions before adoption. Oncale specified that 2.2-lb. charges can not be set off any closer than 500 feet from an inhabited dwelling, and 5.5-lb. charges can not be set off any closer than 750 feet from an inhabited dwelling. Oncale also advised that the parish reserves the right to shut down operations at any time if issues arise or resident complaints come up.

McGill said the blasts would not pose any threat to residents or businesses. The dynamite is sent far enough into the ground that people would not have the opportunity to come in contact with it. He said residents would hear the blast, but it would sound more like rolling thunder.

St. John Parish has been added to Merlin Oil’s insurance policy, and all parish fees have been covered. He said once all the permits have been acquired the testing will commence. The anticipated completion date is slated for the end of June 2008.

McGill said once the data has been collected, which usually takes several months, the company would then determine whether drilling is necessary. He said he did not want to speculate on the likelihood of anything being found.