Air Products moves large drilling rig into Lake Maurepas

Rig is part of controversial carbon capture project

By: - August 5, 2023 7:00 am

A drilling rig similar to this one was used in Lake Maurepas as a test well for Air Products’ carbon capture project. (Image courtesy of Air Products)

Chemical giant Air Products is moving a large drilling rig and platform into Lake Maurepas over the next few days for a groundbreaking yet controversial carbon capture project.

The company is transporting large pieces through Lake Pontchartrain and into the southern part of Lake Maurepas where they should arrive within one to three days, weather permitting, Air Products spokesperson Christina Stephens said. 

Air Products has plans for a $4.5 billion hydrogen manufacturing complex in Ascension Parish that would use carbon capture technology to capture emissions and inject 5 million tons of carbon dioxide per year about a mile below the lakebed. 

The drilling equipment includes barges, tugboats, a drilling rig and crew quarters for around-the-clock staffing and monitoring during construction. 

The temporary rig will serve as a test well to collect core and fluid samples and other data to supplement the information gathered through seismic testing that mapped geologic formations below the lake, which the company completed last month.

Traffic through Bayou Manchac canals, which connect the two estuaries, is observing a no wake zone for the duration of the well’s construction. 

Louisiana residents ask state to halt next phase of carbon capture project

Drilling of the south well is expected to end in October. Air Products is currently awaiting a state permit to construct an additional test well in the northern half of Lake Maurepas next year. 

The test wells are only the initial phases of the project and are temporary. The final project will see additional permanent infrastructure and is scheduled to come online in 2026. The company said it will create 170 permanent jobs and store 95% of the plant’s carbon emissions below the lake. 

“Safety is at the heart of everything we do at Air Products, and this next phase of pore space assessment is critical to ensuring it’s suitable before any CO2 is permanently stored,” Air Products executive Andrew Connolly said in a press release. “This process will provide a more complete view of the geology found more than a mile underneath the lake, where Air Products intends to permanently and safely store the carbon dioxide as part of our efforts to produce clean hydrogen.” 

Area residents and elected officials turned out in opposition to the company’s permit application during a public hearing Wednesday in Baton Rouge. They fear the project will disturb what they call a beautiful waterscape with a fragile ecosystem that has supported local fisheries and restaurants for generations.

State House Rep. Bill Wheat, R-Ponchatoula, was one of many residents who asked the Department of Natural Resources to delay the permit approval and require an environmental impact assessment for the project. The agency declined a similar request made in December during consideration of the company’s first test well permit.


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Wesley Muller
Wesley Muller

Wes Muller traces his journalism roots to 1997 when, at age 13, he built a hyper-local news website for his New Orleans neighborhood. Since then, he has freelanced for the Times-Picayune and worked on staff at WAFB/CBS, the Sun Herald and the Enterprise-Journal, winning awards from the SPJ, Associated Press, Mississippi Press Association and McClatchy. He also taught English as an adjunct instructor at Baton Rouge Community College. Muller is a New Orleans native, Jesuit High School alumnus, University of New Orleans alumnus and a U.S. Army veteran and former paratrooper. He lives in Southeast Louisiana with his two sons and wife.