Politics & Government

DOE shelves plans for Richton salt dome project

The U.S. Department of Energy has re-evaluated the need for increasing the nation's strategic oil reserve capacity and has dropped the Richton salt dome project from its budget.

Environmentalists warn that this doesn't mean the Richton project is dead, but that it currently isn't being funded.

In order to turn the Richton salt dome into an oil reserve, the DOE had proposed using water from the Pascagoula River to flush out a cavern in the salt, then pipe the salty brine wastewater 80 miles to the Gulf, where it would be deposited south of the barrier islands.

At one point, it said it would need to take 50 million gallons a day from the Pascagoula for five years to complete the work.

A spokesman for DOE said today, the $71 million that had been in the budget for the Richton project will be used for operations and maintenance of existing strategic oil reserves in salt domes in Louisiana and Texas.

Under the Bush administration, there was a push to increase the nation's reserves to 1 billion barrels and the Richton salt dome was selected to store the additional 160 million barrels needed to that goal.

"The current objective of developing alternative clean energy sources and reducing United States dependence on foreign oil has reduced the need to expand the Strategic Petroleum Reserves," the DOE said in a statement. "DOE believes funds for expansion could better be utilized to ensure ongoing operational readiness of the existing SPR."

Read more about this story in Thursday's Sun Herald.