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.
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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