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Gulf Salt Domes Quake, La. Methane Explosion Risk

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One hundred and forty-three miles off of Louisiana’s Gulf of Mexico coast, anearthquake occurred Monday among the salt dome complex at the depth of the domes, according to the U.S. Geological Survey, possibly increasing the risk of more explosive methane seeping into South Louisiana including its sinkhole disaster area since the fault system there is linked.

A 2.9M earthquake Monday occurred in the Gulf salt dome complex, as reviewed by a seismologist as detailed in the chart below.

Explosive methane has already been seeping through Louisiana’s fault lines and fissures, most noticeably at Lake Peigneur and in the Bayou Corne area from where the dangerous gas extends two square miles.

(See: La. sinkhole emergency zone quakes, methane extends 2 miles)

Thousands of earthquakes have been recorded in Louisiana’s sinkhole region over the past nine months. Here’s the latest seismology graph – as recorded at the sinkhole yesterday, March 11, the day of the 2.9M quake in the Gulf salt dome complex:


The same day, Monday, Gov. Bobby Jindal issued warnings Bayou Corne’s “sinkhole” regarding “possible further instability,” hydrogen sulfide risks and that a second cavern collpasing in the salt dome less than 200 feet from its outer edge.

The risk of a methane explosion there has been the cause for a mandatory evacuation and residents repeatedly warned to “get out!”

The situation there in the disaster area, including all of Bayou Corne and Grand Bayou, has deteriorated to the point of the state enacting a Contingency Plan and a greater push for buy-outs so residents will leave the area. Many have remained despite a declared mandatory evacuation.

(See: La. ‘Sinkhole’ Warnings, Contingency Plan Enacted: Deadly Hydrogen Sulfide, 2nd Sinkhole, Increased Instability)

Louisiana’s onshore faults and fractures link to the Gulf of Mexico, where methane gas has been leaking since April 2010 when BP wrecked the Macondo well, MC 252 in the Gulf of Mexico salt dome complex.

Explosive methane gas migrating along fault lines from the Gulf of Mexico to Lake Peigneur and Bayou Corne sinkhole disaster salt domes has been a known oil and gas industry risk since 2005, according to president of Baton Rouge-based Coastal Environments, Inc. Dr. Sherwood Gagliano, who has spent years researching fault lines in south Louisiana and the Gulf of Mexico. 

Gagliano spoke with human rights reporter Deborah Dupré last month, saying, “Salt domes are there because of faults. They don’t just happen on their own.”

Fault movement is an underrated natural hazard in South Louisiana, according to Gagliano.

Differential movement between low-density salt and adjacent sedimentary deposits might have a wedging effect on faults, initiating brine water and gas moving up fault zones, he reports.

Aside from gas recently migrating from Apache’s well in the Gulf off of Louisiana’s coast, at least two regional methane gas leakage events are now occurring near the Gulf, at Lake Peigneur and Bayou Corne, impacting the human rights of thousands of people – and maybe an untold thousands if not millions more.

Each of those areas known to be leaking methane are linked. Each is manmade due to salt dome oil and gas industry-related mining, rather than solely natural events. They arealso linked through a fault system, as officials have known since at least 2005.

Dupré reported on Feb. 25:

“Those dome leakages with methane escaping are more due to hot water being pumped into them,” explained Gagliano.

The primary method of extracting underground salt is pumping hot water into the underground salt domes. “Today, all brine operations inject steam or hot water into dry salt beds.” (Michigan State University, Salt mining: mining part)

“We have over 100 of those facilities on faults in South Louisiana and Texas,” Gagliano said, then asserting. “They all need to be reevaluated.”

Sixty-one of those salt dome facilities correlate with known subsurface faults, according to Gagliano’s 2005 report.

Louisiana Department of Natural Resources (LDNR) recently issued an order for all of the state’s 34 salt dome operators to show how close their oil and gas industry storage caverns are to outer edges of the domes, and prove that caverns nearest dome edges are structurally sound. This was an admission of the state previously failing to ensure such safety measures. 

In 2005, Gagliano led a comprehensive study of suspected relationships between geological faults and subsidence in Southeastern Louisiana, reporting findings in Effects of Earthquakes, Fault Movements, and Subsidence on the South Louisiana Landscape.

“When oil, gas and produced water are removed, localized subsidence and fault movement may occur,” he then reported. “Geological fault movement, compaction and fluid withdrawal are inter-related processes contributing to subsidence.

“Differential movement between the low-density salt and adjacent sedimentary deposits may have a wedging effect on the faults, initiating brine water and gas movement up fault zones,” Gagliano reported. “The water and gas in turn may lubricate the fault plane surfaces and cause instability along fault segments.”

While finding that faulting poses a natural hazard in Louisiana, according to Gagliano, pumping water into the domes to dissolve salt for brine allows methane to migrate along faults and veins.


Like nitrogen, methane is an asphyxiant, meaning it can kill people by displacing oxygen. It can also be the source of explosions if a spark ignites it, as Bayou Corne “sinkhole” area residents and officials justifiably fear some 100 miles from Macondo and the migrating gas.

Soon after the BP Gulf oil catastrophe began, the late Matt Simmons, oil guru, said people, especially in Louisiana, needed to be evacuated due to the Gulf’s “open hole.”

BP connection?

The BP-wrecked Macondo Propsect well is in the salt dome complex that had the earthquake Monday.

An expert warned soon after Macondo was supposedly capped that doing so could have unintended consequences. 

“Gas hydrate crystals could be plugging any holes in the underground portion of the well, and they could get dislodged as pressure builds,” said  Bill Gale, a California engineer and industrial explosion expert who is a member of the Deepwater Horizon Study Group [formerly Chief Loss Prevention Engineer for Bechtel in San Francisco].

In other words, methane crystals might have destroyed part of the steel well casing temporarily plugged by methane. It was speculated that the well capping might slowly raise the pressure in the well to the point that hydrate crystals were dislodged and the well would start leaking even more. 

Scientists said the methane could even disturb the seafloor itself, as St. Peterburg Times reported Carol Lutken of University of Mississippi expalined. “Disturbing those [methane hydrate] deposits — say, by drilling an oil well through them — can turn that solid methane into a liquid, leaving the ocean floor unstable.” 

“There will be a vast amount of methane gas coming out of there,” Simmons had said.

From experience in Houston with Hurricane Rita (2005), he said last-minute evacuation would likely be disasterous with highways jammed hopelessly, drivers out of gas, and then gas stations out of gas.

BP should be barred from media airwaves since they lied to cover up their criminal negligence and culpability, Simmons asserted. Instead, last week, District Judge Carl Barbier ruled BP will not even be liable for the full $21 billion in fines for dumping millions of gallons of oil into the Gulf. The company now faces maximum liability of $17.6 billion.

 “That’s less than the oil giant made in 2012 alone – when they raked in profits of over $25 billion,” Thom Hartmann says this week. 

“There’s no dollar amount that brings back the 11 workers killed on the Deep Water Horizon.”

There’s no dollar amount that brings back hundreds if not untold estimated thousands of deaths from what more than one victim has called, “chemical genocide” of BP’s Gulf oil catastrophe.

“We should give BP the corporate death penalty and revoke their right to do business in our nation,” Hartman asserts.

(Read: Explosive Methane Fault Migration: Gulf to La. Salt Domes?)

Biological oceanographer and researcher at Florida State University Ian MacDonald has said, “When discussing the spill, it has been the tendency of both the government and BP to completely ignore the gas that was released. I think they are responsible legally and ethically.” 

That gas is still leaking, moving ahead of the crude that is also still leaking.

Dr. Samantha Joye had said 1000 times more methane was leaking from BP’s-wrecked Macondo Prospect well in the Gulf’s salt dome complex than what has been known to leak from other oil “spills.” 





27.610°N, 91.962°W


10 km (6.2 miles) set by location program




231 km (143 miles) SSW of Dulac, Louisiana

242 km (150 miles) SSW of Morgan City, Louisiana

251 km (155 miles) SSW of Houma, Louisiana

252 km (156 miles) SSW of Bayou Cane, Louisiana

(Photo courtesy of Dutchsince)


Appreciated this article? Please click the “Like” and Recommend buttons above and share the link.

Human Rights news reporter Deborah Dupré is author of  the inspiring and shocking book, “Vampire of Macondo, Life, crimes and curses in south Louisiana that Powerful Forces Don’t want you to know.” Its 450 pages are packed with mainstream media’s censored stories (and over 1000 references) about the BP-wrecked Macondo Prospect in the Gulf of Mexico that continues catastrophic human and environmental devastation.

Follow Dupré on Twitter @DeborahDupre. For interviews, email [email protected].


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    • Daniel777

      Great article Deborah…If only people realized how close we are to a major disaster!
      Yes, I was expecting an active March 11th, and from the US EQ list below you can
      see that for Quakes over 2.5 in the US there were 2 on 3/7, 2 on 3/8, 2 on 3/9
      & them 4 on 3/10…but 12 on 3/11, including the biggest on the list on too a 4.7
      And with the day mostly gone we are back down to 4 again today..But Stay Alert

      29km SSE of Smith Valley,Nevada 2013-03-12
      2.7 8km S of Rancho Palos Verdes,Ca 2013-03-12
      2.9 37km SSW of Ferndale, Ca 2013-03-12
      2.8 29km SSE of Smith Valley,Nevada 2013-03-12
      2.5 19km ESE of Anza, California 2013-03-11
      2.5 18km ESE of Anza, California 2013-03-11
      2.7 20km ESE of Anza, California 2013-03-11
      2.8 22km SW of La Quinta, Ca 2013-03-11
      3.2 9km SSW of Boley, Oklahoma 2013-03-11
      3.0 21km SW of La Quinta, Ca 2013-03-11
      4.7 20km ESE of Anza, California 2013-03-11
      2.6 20km ESE of Anza, California 2013-03-11
      2.9 231km SSW of Dulac, Louisiana 2013-03-11
      2.7 17km ENE of Benton, Illinois 2013-03-11
      3.0 73km W of Tonopah, Nevada 2013-03-11
      2.8 107km W of Ferndale, California 2013-03-11
      2.7 6km NNE of Godley, Texas 2013-03-10
      2.8 2km SE of Loma Linda, Ca 2013-03-10
      2.7 2km SE of Loma Linda, Ca 2013-03-10
      2.8 4km WNW of San Juan Bautista,Ca.2013-03-10
      3.3 38km SW of Bolinas, California 2013-03-09
      3.2 44km NNE of Camalu, Mexico 2013-03-09
      2.7 10km WNW of Daly City, Ca. 2013-03-08
      3.3 7km S of Cobb, California 2013-03-08
      2.5 5km W of Cobb, California 2013-03-07
      2.8 5km WSW of Cobb, California 2013-03-07
      3.4 10km NW of Prague, Oklahoma 2013-03-06
      2.5 5km E of Chester, California 2013-03-06

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