A Mississippi-based oil company has filed an application with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection to drill an exploratory oil well in northern Gulf County.
There is no timeline for when final action would come from the FDEP; state agencies have 30 days to weigh in on the project following its early July application.
Spooner Petroleum Company, based in Ridgeland, MS, proposed to drill on a 4.79 acre site near Wetappo Creek and the western end of the Dead Lakes.
The area was included as part of seismic testing three years ago searching for potential gas and oil deposits.
In its application, Spooner said it will construct a dirt access road to the site and create a buffer one mile in circumference around the drilling site.
The land is owned by and will be leased from Bear Creek Timber, LLC.
Spooner, who owns all mineral rights, according to the application, proposes to drill to a depth of nearly 13,000 feet over the course of 20-25 days.
The target is what is known geologically as the Smackover Formation within the Panama City Prospect, which sits beneath Gulf and Calhoun counties.
According to the application, the Smackover Formation extends to the Jay Field in Santa Rosa/Escambia counties.
That Jay Field provided something of a target when seismic testing was performed in northern Gulf County and Calhoun County, to considerable controversy, in 2016.
From the outset, the company performing the testing pointed to the Jay Field.
The team of Lampl Herbert, contracted to perform the testing, said, “The working theory behind the seismic testing was that any oil and gas deposits found would be an extension of the Jay Field, which has produced oil, through conventional drilling, for decades.”
The Jay Field, is referenced in Spooner’s application, which cites the seismic data collected three years ago, in its application to drill in Gulf County.
The seismic testing was conducted at the behest of Cholla Petroleum out of Dallas, TX.
Last year, Cholla applied to the FDEP for permits to drill in Calhoun County along the same underground formation near the Dead Lakes and Apalachicola River; the permits have yet to be issued.
Apalachicola Riverkeeper formally protested those applications.
"The development of oil and gas in this area threatens the basic quality of life due to the high risk of pollution of the surface and groundwater, subsidence of coastal plain, air quality, and community character...Exploratory wells bring the risk of releasing harmful chemicals into the wetlands and rivers. A period of heavy rain could be disastrous if it carries toxins into the river system," the environmental advocacy group wrote.
The proposed Spooner well would be drilled on a newly-constructed pad, 450-feet by 450-feet, designed to meet Northwest Florida Water Management District stormwater requirements, according to the application documents,
“A 3-foot outer berm will surround the drill pad and is designed to contain any surface fluids and retard run-off into local water bodies.” the application detailed.
A secondary containment stormwater management system will contain runoff from the rig mat area.
“This system will collect stormwater runoff and operation fluid volumes that could run off the drill rig during drilling operations (i.e. drilling mud, drill water, etc.); two sump pumps in the containment ditch which will direct the volumes into collection tanks.
“The storage capacity of the onsite retention system and perimeter berm is designed to mitigate risk of run-off during a 100- year storm event,” the application detailed.
The application to even test in 2016 set off considerable outcry tied to concerns about fracking, the use of chemicals and water at high speed to break up underground formations.
A bill to establish state rules for fracking died in the Florida Legislature several years running and a grassroots effort was undertaken to secure resolutions to ban fracking in more than two dozen counties.
Among them was Gulf County, with the Board of County Commissioners approving the resolution.
Then Congresswoman Gwen Graham expressed concerns about the testing to the U.S. Department of the Interior, calling fracking “incompatible” with the natural resources and limestone base of Northwest Florida.
There is no indication based on the application that Spooner