La. sinkhole methane in aquifer could cause Minden explosions physicists say
Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality
At least ten powerful explosions Monday night at Camp Minden after a meteor shower have raised many questions, including whether Louisiana’s sinkhole area aquifer explosive-level methane could have traveled north where hit by a meteorite causing the blasts, a possibility according to a physicist and an astrophysicist interviewed by Deborah Dupré Friday. Heavier meteor showers are predicted this weekend.
“If there is enough methane in the air, just about anything (like a rock hitting another rock, causing a spark) could ignite explosions,” physicist Steve Knudsen said in an email Friday.
While some believe Monday night’s explosions could not have been caused by a meteorite because the objects are cold when they reach Earth, Knudsen and chair of West Virginia University Department of Astrophysics Dr. Duncan Lorimer refute that.
“Meteors burn up up but meteorites hit the ground and are hot on impact,” Dr. Lorimer told Dupré Friday in a separate email.
“Depending on the size of the meteor, it would not necessarily be cold by the time it hits the earth,” explained Knuden.
“[O]f course, they have sufficient energy to heat up and burn in the atmosphere, so if there is any methane there then that could happen,” replied Lorimer, after asked if a meteor’s impact on methane in Louisiana could cause an explosion.
The “Camp Minden” explosion was felt in three states, in communities including Lake Bisteneau community that was particularly hard hit by the blasts.
According to a Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality map, Lake Bisteneau is part of the same water system as the sinkhole area where methane has reached explosive level and is life-threatening, according to officials.
A meteor hitting methane could have caused the Camp Minden explosions, but authorities have not publicly released this critically important information. The heaviest of meteorite showers are predicted this weekend.
“Questions are still being asked as to why did it take authorities so long to identify that an explosion had occurred on the post,” asks Rod White, reporting for KTBS on Wednesday.
Monday night, Oct. 15, around 11:26 pm, a large explosion felt in three states occurred in Louisiana’s Webster Parish, reportedly approximately 4 miles southwest of Minden, 28 miles east of Shreveport. The initial event reportedly occurred at Latitude/Longitude 35.578 N, -93.351 W, in the borders of Camp Minden Army ammunition plant. Large flashes had been previously observed, citizens were shaken out of beds and windows shattered during the late night hours.
The dark or another oil and gas disaster?
“Authorities are blaming just the dark for their inability to find the source of that huge explosion,” stated White.
Matt Harris with Louisiana State Police, Troop “G” says it was like searching for a needle in a haystack to find the origin of the explosion, according to KTBS.
“There’s no way to visually find it and being that it was dark and foggy you couldn’t really find a smoke cloud,” Harris said.
Citizens, however, are not buying those explanations. Digging only a little deeper, one sees the connection between north Louisiana’s Monday night explosion area and south Louisiana’s sinkhole area: The areas are joined by that water system of interconnected aquifers.
“Some reports say it was a ammunition bunker explosion, others say a meteor hit, other suggest military weapon tests,” Examiner reader Ron Bartlett commented Thursday. “[R]egardless, it was a massive explosion with lots of fire and with all this gas in the air, growing sink holes and underground high pressure oil and gas storage caverns – it could have set off of a chain reactions of explosions.”
Methane is in the Assumption Parish waterways, specifically the aquifer. Only eight days before the “Minden explosion,” on Oct. 8, it was reported that the methane gas pressure had become so high, it had reached an explosive level.
John Boudreaux, director of the Assumption Parish Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness has said there are concerns that the gas can build pressure under the clay layer that lies above the aquifer. Once the aquifer reaches a pressure greater than 75 to 85 pounds per square inch, the clay layer might not hold back the accumulated gas, according to Boudreaux and geologists.
“And then it could be a problem, because you do not know where the weak point would be until after it has already done its thing,” said Boudreaux.
Bartlett is only one of several citizens questioning the sinkhole methane and Camp Minden explosion connection.
On the popular Godlike Productions website, Rhonda Yocum wrote what she emailed to Dupré, “I pulled up Google Earth and stuck a pin in Minden, Lake Bistineau, Bayou Corne, and Lake Peigneur. I panned out to see exactly what these places might have in common…
“These 4 places are ALL located on the same aquifer,” Keller wrote.
(See Department of Environmental Quality aquifer map above and at http://map.ldeq.org/projects/images/misc/aquisys.jpg
“I believe that the methane is traveling up that aquifer (under enormous pressure) and that the meteor which was spotted by numerous people on the night of October 15th, impacted somewhere closer to Lake Bistineau and ignited a methane pocket, causing that massive explosion and percussion wave,” Yocum stated. “Residents closer to Lake Bistineau reported more intense damage, pressure wave, shaking…. than those in Minden.”
“A resident of the Lake Bistineau area reports that it almost shook their house off its foundation,” the News Star reported Tuesday.
Sheriff Gary Sexton said that, as he was driving in the Springhill-Cullen area, he saw two flashes from the south — before the blasts began.
“Earlier in the morning, Sexton said there was a ‘possibility that a meteor did hit the ground’ in the area, but that theory was put to rest with the confirmation of the blast at the Camp Minden bunker,” WAFB reported.
Numerous other eyewitness reports explained they saw what appeared to be meteors, with tails, falling before the blasts that occurred just before midnight.
“About this time here in Stephens City VA, while walking my dog I had seen what looked like a shooting star – it had a tail- or another star immediately (sic) behind it,” Maria Teresa commented Tuesday on the Examiner. “[If] you blinked, you missed it. I wonder if this is what I had seen. It was redder than a shooting star – or the second object was – just like a flash it was gone…”
“It was after 11, I am sure,” Teresa wrote. “[We} took the dog out for his last walk which we normally do… I had looked up right before it was gone. Don’t know if it means anything, but saw similar sight last night a lot earlier… same type of shooting start but only one – same place in sky – pretty prominent for the sky not to be dark yet,” she stated.
New York Daily News says the explosion was caused by military, not a meteorite. It also noted that military is investigating the explosions.
A visible meteorite shower had been predicted this week, peaking this weekend.
“A meteor shower spawned by history’s most famous comet will peak this weekend,” reports NBC News. “Orionid meteor shower to light up night skies this weekend,” its news article was titled.
Could there be more methane explosions in Louisiana this weekend?
“The Orionid meteor shower will reach its zenith overnight from Saturday to Sunday as Earth plows through debris shed by Halley’s Comet on its path around the sun,” NBC reports. “The most impressive display should come a few hours before dawn Sunday, when our planet hits the densest patch of Halley’s detritus.
“Flakes of comet dust hitting the atmosphere should give us dozens of meteors per hour,” said Bill Cooke, head of the Meteoroid Environment Office at NASA’s Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala.
If meteors struck the nation’s oil and gas capital, Louisiana, it is not beyond possibility that the hot materials could ignite methane if the methane is in the air, according to the physicists interviewed.
If a meteor were large enough to penetrate refinery tanks or pipelines, it could cause explosions. The same would occur if a meteor hit a munitions dump, such as the one at Camp Minden that exploded.
The Bayou Corne sinkhole disaster “is made all the more worrisome” because of a nearby Crosstex Energy LP’s “well containing 1.5 million barrels of liquid butane, a highly volatile liquid that turns into a highly flammable vapor upon release,” CNN has reported. Assumption Parish Sheriff Mike Waguespack said a breach of that well could be “catastrophic.”
Something unexpectedly triggered an emergency flare 40 feet high at that Crosstex well last week. An explosion at that well would be in the range of one and a half B83 thermonuclear (hydrogen) bombs, according to scientists.
“This is extremely serious,” Kim Torres, spokeswoman for the Office of Emergency Preparedness, told ABCNews.com. “The people are very aware of how serious this is.”
Aside from a plethora of oil refineries and oil and gas pipelines, Louisiana has two nuclear facilities.
The Waterford Steam Electric Station, Unit 3 nuclear facility, also known as Waterford 3, is a power plant on a 3,000-acre (12-km²) plot in Killona, Louisiana near New Orleans, about 50 miles from the Bayou Corne methane bubbling area.
River Bend Nuclear Generating Station is a nuclear power station on a 3,300-acre (13 km2) site near St. Francisville, Louisiana, about 67 miles from the methane-bubbling sinkhole area.
Both of Louisiana’s nuclear power facilities are located in the same aquifer tainted with methane.
Copyright 2012 Deborah Dupré All Rights Reserved