Programs & Services

Frequently Asked Questions

Where is the Carlsbad Brine Well?

The Carlsbad Brine Well is located within the Carlsbad, NM city limits, south of the intersection of US Highways 285 and 180/62.

How far below the ground surface is the cavity?

The top of the cavity is approximately 340-450 feet below the ground surface, depending on location. The bottom could be as deep as 600 feet below theground surface in some places.

Why is the remediation project needed?

Two similar brine wells near Carlsbad have already collapsed. Investigation and detailed monitoring of the Carlsbad Brine Well indiates risk of collapse in several years or sooner if not stabilized. A collapse could cause an estimated $1 billion in damages, affecting a main irrigation canal, a major highway intersection, a rail line, and multiple businesses and residences.

How has the remediation project plan adjusted since initial planning?

The initial remediaton plan was based on the best data interpretations available at the time, however the exact nature of the cavity was uncertain. The initial plan included drilling a series of borings into the least stable portions of the cavity and consolidating selected areas with grout to stabilize the cavity. Information collected during the first two months of drilling revealed previously unanticipated conditions but provided an opportunity to use more efficient stabilization procedures than originally planned. The optimized plan now includes pumping sand into the larger voids in the same method that is used to fill many potash mines and natural caverns at risk of collapse. Once filled with sand the voids will be “topped off” with grout to create a strongly supported roof.

How much does the remediation project cost, and why?

Remediation of the Carlsbad Brine Well is estimated to cost approximately $54 million. Drilling in the honeycomb of pressurized brine-filled pockets, zones of collapsed solids, and large open voids is a complex task. Specialty equipment, drilling methods and monitoring must be used to ensure there is no fluid loss or cavern roof degradation that could induce a collapse. During drilling and stabilization, a crew of approximately 25 highly trained specialists are working on site 24 hours a day. Materials are also an expense. The amount of grout and sand needed is about what it would take to fill 28 Olympic size swimming pools. The project cost also includes gaining access to the private land on which the remediation equipment and materials are situated along with a project office.

Who is paying for the Carlsbad Brine Well remediation?

Funding for the remediation effort is a combination of local and state monies.

Why does the remediation project require more funding than previously allocated by the legislature?

Phased initial funding from the City of Carlsbad, Eddy County, and the state legislature was provided in early 2018 before the total cost of the project was adequately determined. Since then the remediation design was further advanced. The cost to implement the design, secure property access surrounding the Brine Well operation, pay New Mexico Gross Receipts tax, and cover EMNRD overhead is greater than the initial funding amount.

Will there be more traffic modifications?

The traffic modifications to the “South Y” are fully implemented and have proven functional and safe. No additional traffic modifications are anticipated.

What about safety?

The OCD and contractors are taking every precaution to have a safe work environment. As of the end of January, there has been no lost time to injury. The Department is in constant contact with local emergency personnel to mitigate any incidents that could occur.