The Wagon Wheel

Our last post on Oily Stuff was about the Lafitte oil field in Jefferson Parish, Louisiana, a large deep seated salt feature that produced, we think, as much as 200M BO from Miocene sands draped over the top of it. Before we vamanosee Louisiana for awhile we thought we'd look at another salt dome feature about 35 miles south, south east of Lafitte called the Venice Dome. Venice was also discovered with the industry's great new oil-finding toy of the early 1930's; two dimensional seismic. Salt domes on 2-D seismic stick out like a sore thumb.

The Venice Salt Dome is located in Plaquemines Parish, about 4 miles north, north west of Venice, Louisiana, about as far south as a coonass can drive in that state. Venice, of course, got famous for the BP Macondo mess but in reality it was way famous before then for its amazing red fish fishery and outstanding offshore, yellowfin tuna. It's not a big deal to catch 40 redfish a day 'round these parts and wear yourself plum out. I know dis too, me.

The Venice salt dome puckers up within a couple thousand feet of the surface and stacked Frio sands are pinched out against the salt walls, at much shallower depths than up in Lafitte. So all the drilling occured around and near the dome itself, not on top of it. Humble Oil and Refining and Gulf Oil drilled some dry holes on on the northeast flank of the dome but it was Tidewater that hit pay dirt on July of 1937.

The actual dome use to be in marsh land, some of which was accessible with mules and mud buggies, etc. In the bad photo above (sorry) we can begin to see early development of the field with a canal dug to facilitate a land rig and with a tank battery actually on dry ground. Eventually a canal was built around the top of the dome, in a circular pattern, some 7 miles in diameter, to facilitate the use of drilling barges. From the outside canal numerous smaller canals were drilled inward, like spokes on a wheel, to push drilling barges into staked locations.



As the southern tip of Louisiana has receded into salt water, the Venice Salt dome is now pretty much covered in saltwater lakes and bayous. It is a haven for red fisherman and duck hunters and was aptly called, the Wagon Wheel many years ago. There are active wells in the field operated by Hilcorp and many depleted wells needing plugging and decommissioning. Hilcorps production facilities can be accessed by land on the east side of the dome, seen above, and is a few minutes drive from Venice.

There are some big wells on the Venice Dome and in the general area. Up Highway 23 a few miles is the little community of Buras where there is an overpressured Frio structure that has numerous blowouts in it, one blowout that kicked Myron Kinley's ass in 1939. I have some video of that someday I'll show.


Hilcorp's production facility looking west across the Wagon Wheel.



This is a chambersite crystal, a sort of manganese "evaporite" that is unique to salt domes along the Texas and Louisiana Gulf Coast. The crystals are very rare and very valuable. The Venice Dome had a bunch of these things (3-5MM in size) in it and they would occasionally get circulated up with drilling mud when early wells were drilled into brine residues associated with the salt daphir. These crystals, if not broken, are almost always tetrahedral and can be clear, aqua, brown and purple in color.


For some cool redfishing on top of a salt dome, take the channel south out of Lafitte toward Grand Isle and turn left thru Tiger Pass. All of that water you will be gliding over in a boat use to be beautiful marshland. America needed its oil and natural gas resources badly before World War II and American oil and gas helped create the greatest industrialized nation the world has ever known. Louisiana played a big role in all that.


But oilfield dredging and a maze of canals dug in the marsh to facilitate the development of hydrocarbons over the past 100 years has led to erosion and significant salt water intrusion. Southern Louisiana is slowly being lost to the Gulf of Mexico.



This is a wonderful little film by Texaco featuring the Wagon Wheel and it shows how much land mass has been lost in Southern Louisiana over the years along both sides of the Mississippi River delta.