Participants in Tuesday morning’s Haynesville Shale Task Force tabletop exercise learned their most effective tool during a natural gas well emergency is communication.
The lack thereof contributes to confusion and frustration — as was evident behind the scenes within hours after a major blowout in south Caddo Parish a year ago. The task force was borne out of that incident that sent dozens of families away from their homes; some as long as three weeks.
Tuesday’s meeting, hosted by Caddo Parish Sheriff Steve Prator, was the group’s second, but it involved more than sitting around a table talking. The more than 120 attendees — representing state agencies, first responders, elected officials, oil and gas companies and law enforcement from Caddo, Bossier, DeSoto, Webster and Natchitoches parishes — were presented with a scenario of a well blowout and each group walked through their responsibilities.
“I think everyone learned something,” said Prator, who chairs the group. Being able to sit across from oil and gas company representatives, emergency responders and regulations officials and openly discuss response plans “was very healthy. “» We need to be more familiar with what goes on on a rig site. On the other hand, they learned we have to consider the worst case scenario in everything we do. We understand each other better than we have before.”
Keeping the lines of communication aids in building partnerships that are essential if or when another emergency occurs during the Haynesville Shale development, said Mark Cooper, director of the Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness.
The purpose of putting everyone through the tabletop exercise was to determine whether any gaps exist. None were identified, Cooper said, but it helped “us all know our roles and be unified in our response.”
From the industry standpoint, “it is imperative that all parties communicate expectations and needs prior to an issue, rather than after,” said Jodee Bruyninckx, Louisiana Oil and Gas Association North Louisiana director. “This is the beginning of an official ongoing dialogue between the state agencies of jurisdiction, local entities, and the oil and gas industry on emergency response issues through the task force.”
The task force’s work doesn’t stop here. One recommendation was for all parties to be familiar with the goings on at a rig site so all that would have a part in responding to an emergency were encouraged to visit a location in their jurisdiction. “And the companies were very open to that,” Prator said.