Natali Ormiston and her backers in Quartz Operations thought they could find billion-year-old oil in the Precambrian bedrock below Wasta. We probably won’t find out if Ormiston was right: her drill broke, Quartz is broke, and the bond the state required Quartz to post is laughably inadequate to cover the cost of plugging the hole and protecting the punctured aquifer:
The board and its professional staff at the state Department of Environment and Natural Resources knew the project was iffy.
They required the developers, led by a woman from Deadwood named Natali Ormiston, to post a bond of $130,000 for the first well.
Normally the board requires a bond of only $20,000 for an oil well.
The $130,000 is deposited in a Pierre bank. So far, DENR officials haven’t sought to cash the bond.
It’s not even close to enough money to plug the well, according to Mike Lees, an environmental scientist for DENR.
The cost would be $2 million, he said, because of the broken bit and the 150 feet of drill pipe that remain in the hole about a mile into the earth.
Lees said multidirection drilling would be needed to get around them. The concern is that one of the aquifers that has been punctured, known as the Minnelusa, could flow upward into another punctured aquifer, known as the Inyan Kara, through artesian pressure [Bob Mercer, “Failed Oil Well near Wasta May Put State in $2 Million Hole and Could Endanger Water,” Rapid City Journal, 2016.05.19].
Permit an unusual well, don’t make the drillers put up the cash to clean up any mistakes… sure! Why not? What could go wrong?
So, Board of Minerals and Environment, if Battelle and the Department of Energy ask you for a permit for the Deep Borehole Field Test, you’ll ask them what happens if their drill breaks, right? You’ll ask them if their $35.7-million drilling contract includes enough contingency funds to cross-drill and extract any broken bits and drill pipe from that skinny 8.5-inch hole, right?