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Millions more needed to complete Carlsbad Brine Well remediation

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Completing remediation of the Carlsbad Brine Well by filling the northern portion of the cavity could cost an additional $10 to $16 million, said the Bureau Chief of the New Mexico Oil Conservation Division Jim Griswold at a special meeting Wednesday of the Carlsbad Brine Well Remediation Authority.

“They estimated an additional cost of ranging from $10.9 to $16.7 million and the additional amount of time required would range between 50 to 107 additional days of injection,” he said.

Griswold said crews encountered a large cavity during the back-fill work, even as the current budget for the project hovers around $3 million.

The work to remediate the former I&W Brine Well site south of Carlsbad where U.S. Highways 285 and 62/180 converge would also require and additional 168,000 cubic yards of sand.

MORE: Sonar imaging may reveal how much of Carlsbad Brine Well must be filled

The original budget for remediation was estimated at $43 million and was funded through state and local funds.

Sarah Cottrell Propst, New Mexico Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department (ENMRD) cabinet secretary, said the cost estimates from Wood Environment and Infrastructure Solutions from Albuquerque come at a bad time for state government.

“We know the state is in a terrible budget situation right now. We need to know much more precisely what number we’re aiming for so we can correctly come up with strategies to find that money,” she said.

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Cottrell Propst said multiple money options, including federal grants, should not be ruled out.

“There is discussion in the U.S. Congress about some additional funding for some states for oil and gas reclamation work. If that materializes that could either be in whole or in part a potential source, because this is the mother of all reclamation projects. So that’s a possibility,” she said.

MORE: Sand filling work at Carlsbad Brine Well site getting close to finish line

John Heaton, a designee from the city of Carlsbad on the authority, said the city of Carlsbad and Eddy County may not have the funds to offset the cost to the state.

“I think it’s going to be difficult for the city or county to put anymore into this project due to their reduced revenue. I think that puts them in a very difficult position,” he said.

Griswold said sand injection work was suspended July 24 and around 100,000 cubic yards of sand has been deployed.

MORE: Eddy County OKs $800K more for Brine Well | Carlsbad Council OKs $2M

“Today (Wednesday) the sonar logging subcontractor is beginning another survey to gain additional information on the volume and configuration of the northern void,” Griswold said.

Cottrell Propst said once ENMRD has the new sonar information an exact cost would be forthcoming.

“My plan is to have a meeting with some of the smart budget folks in the state and see what ideas they have for how to put this together,” she said.

MORE: U.S. 285 holding up during Brine Well work

Cottrell Propst said no further work was needed in the southern portion of the Brine Well.

“Remediation has stabilized the southern end. We’re in a much better position than we were a year ago,” she said.

Mike Smith can be reached at 575-628-5546 or by email at MSmith@currentargus.com or @ArgusMichae on Twitter.

This article originally appeared on Carlsbad Current-Argus: Millions more needed to complete Carlsbad Brine Well remediation

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