Common Tragedies

Thoughts on Environmental Economics

Support for SPR site dries up over river concerns

Posted by Evan Herrnstadt on April 8, 2008

I’m posting, which these days means a story about the SPR must have come out. From Reuters:

The Department of Energy is boosting the reserve to 1 billion barrels, as Congress mandated, by adding Richton and expanding two existing sites. Richton was chosen because it is less vulnerable to hurricanes but close to a major pipeline system and the Gulf of Mexico for easy oil deliveries.

But many locals are horrified the government may drain 50 million gallons of water a day from the Pascagoula River for five years to dissolve the salt in the caverns. The resulting brine is to be carried away in a pipeline — which the Energy Department admits will probably leak many times — and dumped into the Gulf of Mexico not far from the state’s coastline.

Yep, we do actually need somewhere to put all that controversial SPR oil. Is it really surprising that leaching salt out of a cavern large enough to hold 160 million barrels of crude oil might have an adverse environmental impact? Not really, as was pointed out in the Canadian context about two months ago:

The report proposes a series of salt caverns in Lambdon County, Ontario, to cover that province’s allocation, but immediately notes that their excavation could be an environmental concern.

It’s also a bit disconcerting that the DOE is so freely admitting that the brine will likely “leak many times” (four dozen leaks in 5 years is the estimate) on its way to the Gulf. One wonders if this is the full extent of the potential damage, given that they’re so willing to concede the point. The brine issue is exacerbated by its extreme salinity (10 times that of the Gulf) and the nature of surrounding wetlands:

With some remote wetlands, leaks won’t likely be found for days and then the damage will be done. “Somebody is going to be out fishing and they’ll start seeing dead fish,” said Shepard.

With the net benefits of an expanded SPR so uncertain, decisions like this only add to the cost side of the balance.
H/T: Oil Drum

2 Responses to “Support for SPR site dries up over river concerns”

  1. Scott S said

    It’s a fact that all fish looove salt, just the like overweight Americans who eat them. Salty fish will keep longer and we won’t have to add sodium to them at the dinner table. I see this as a win-win. Besides, it will all end up in the Dead Zone (aka, our oceanic compost pile) anyway. Tragic? I think not.

  2. icantbelieveiliveintexas said

    may be of interest:

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