A Flawed Project:
Underground Salt Cavern Storage
In Kings County
The fact that southern Kings County contains a geologically layered deposit of salt does not automatically mean that
the Cassidy Lake area is suitable for underground salt cavern storage.
In fact, just the opposite appears to be the case.
1.0 A Dangerous
Salt caverns are the most dangerous of all storage methods, even though they make up only 11% of all underground
storage facilities. They account for 41.5% of all serious ‘incidents’1 (leaks,
According to the most comprehensive study of underground gas storage to date (British Geological Survey, 2008
2), 41% of all underground salt cavern storage facilities operational in 2005 had
experienced serious incidents. One third of all these incidents resulted in casualties or
2.0 Structure Unsound
John Hopper says that catastrophic losses in salt caverns occur because of “single point
failure.” 3 He is in a position to know. As vice- president of TPC Corporation, Hopper helped design the Moss Bluff Gas Storage Facility near
Houston, Texas, for Duke Energy 4.
Beginning on August 19, 2004, explosions and fires rocked the Moss Bluff facility doing $20 million worth of
damage, releasing more than $36 million worth of natural gas into the air, and causing the evacuation of some 360 people, up to 5 km
away. Moss Bluff is now synonymous with disaster in the underground gas storage
industry. Hopper, writing for Energy Markets in 2004, attributes the catastrophe to the
single point failure of a valve. He recommends redundant systems to prevent future
The British Geological Survey report5 concluded that at Moss Bluff a major underground pipe broke,
allowed high pressure natural gas to rush to the surface through a brine pipe, rupturing the Emergency Shutdown System with a ‘water
hammer’ phenomenon, and igniting the natural gas. The extreme heat of the fire blew off
the entire wellhead assembly. This failure occurred at a location in the pipework that had
suffered a general loss of wall thickness due to internal corrosion – in a pipe only four years old. (Little surprise – what is more corrosive than salt water?)
Single point failure? Moss Bluff was one single point failure after
another. The British Geological Survey report, in its risk assessment considerations,
lists 3 general causes of salt cavern failure, 18 potential sites for failure, and over 100 vulnerable, specific failure
sites. Duplication of virtually the entire facility would be required to insure safety
from known hazards alone.
Consider also: If a multi-billion dollar corporation like Duke Energy
could not avert the Moss Bluff disaster, who could?
1Depleted aquifers had an incidence rate of only 21%; depleted gas and oil fields only 3%.
2British Geological Survey, “An appraisal of underground gas storage technologies and incidents, for the development of risk
assessment methodology.” Research Report RR605.2008
3John M. Hopper. “Gas Storage and Single-Point Failure Risk” Energy Markets,
Natural Gas. 2004.
4Duke Energy, through its subsidiary, Spectra Energy, owns 75% of the Maritimes and Northeast
Pipeline here in New Brunswick. Though its subsidiary, Market Hub Partners (Canada) LP, Duke Energy is a major partner in Corridor Resources bid to build
underground salt cavern storage at Cassidy Lake.
3.0 A Site
Corridor’s preferred site is only 1.5 km from the flooded tunnels of the abandoned PCS6 Cassidy Lake Potash
Mine. This mine opened in 1985, experienced flooding almost immediately, and had to be
abandoned by 1998 due to the flooding. During the short life of the mine, household water
supplies up to 5 km away from the mine were affected7 by the pumping of water draining into the mine.
Twenty-five km to the northeast there is a geological structure nearly identical to that in the Cassidy Lake
area. This is home to the now-flooding PCS Penobsquis potash mine, due to be abandoned in 2012
because of its flooding. PCS is spending $1 million per month to pump out and dispose of the
incoming water. Household water supplies in Penobsquis area have been disrupted as far away as
3.5 km from the centre of the affected area. Ground subsidence is also a serious concern in
Corridor Resources is proposing to consume 1.5 times as much water as PCS.
A major geological fault (Clover Hill) runs 300 meters to the north of the Corridor site; a second fault runs through the salt deposit
itself, 1.4 km to the south8.
5British Geological Survey, “An appraisal of underground gas storage technologies and incidents, for the development of risk
assessment methodology”. Research Report RR605.2008
6Potash Corporation of Saskatchewan
7Source: March 21, 2005, letter from Tania Noble Sharp, Project Manager, Jacques
Whitford Consultants (to J. Redford, Market Hub Partners Canada L.P., and Colonel McLeod, Duke Energy.)
8Dickie, Webb, Kingston. 1978. New
Brunswick DNR Report. Also Anderle, Crosby, Waugh. 1979.
4.0 Public Resources in Jeopardy
Fresh Water Supply
In order to excavate its salt cavern, Corridor Resources is demanding 10,000,000 litres of water per day for over a
year per cavern. This is more than twice the daily fresh water needs of Sussex, Sussex Corner
and Hampton combined.
Since pumping water from the Cassidy Lake potash mine affected drinking water supplies 5 km away, it is completely reasonable to assume
that household water supplies will be undermined for at least 5 km in all directions by the removal of 10 million litres of water daily from the
local water supply.
4.2 Bay of
Corridor Resources currently has no means of disposing of the 10,000,000 litres of brine it intends to
produce. Potash Corporation of Saskatchewan is on record as saying that it will not be
partnering with Corridor Resources to dispose of this brine.
Even if Corridor Resources finds a way to overcome this obstacle, the effect of pumping this amount of brine into the sensitive marine
ecosystems of the Bay of Fundy has never been studied. The cumulative effect of brine dumping by
Corridor Resources and PCS has also not been studied by any body independent of these corporations.
That southern Kings County, New Brunswick, should be the site of underground salt cavern storage of natural gas, LNG,
or crude oil (or become the site of a carbon dioxide dump) is a deeply flawed and ill-considered idea. Underground salt cavern storage in an inhabited area is dangerous. The threat, known and documented, which such projects offer to the safety and security of the local
populace is simply unacceptable. This particular scheme in the Cassidy Lake area is structurally unsound geologically, as well as
mechanically. The damage which will almost certainly be wrought upon the local water supply is
without parallel in the province of New Brunswick.
Only the wildest flight of fancy could seriously suggest that the Corridor Resources proposed salt cavern storage
project is suitable to the Cassidy Lake area. It would be reckless for Corridor Resources to
pursue this project any further.
It would be irresponsible for the government of New Brunswick, or for any political party, to allow this project to proceed any
The Quality of Life Initiative requests the Minister of Natural Resources to declare the southern Kings County area unsuitable for the
purpose of underground salt cavern storage.