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ONGC rigs not safe: govt agency

business Updated: Feb 03, 2013 01:47 IST
Anupama Airy
Anupama Airy
Hindustan Times
Oil and Natural Gas Corporation

India's biggest oil and gas explorer, the state-owned Oil and Natural Gas Corporation, is allegedly ignoring the safety of the 40 drilling rigs it operates in the Arabian Sea and the Bay of Bengal.

Oil Industry Safety Directorate (OISD), a government organisation that formulates and implements safety standards, wrote a letter to the petroleum ministry, expressing concern over the condition of the equipment on the ONGC rigs, employing around 40,000 people.

Of the 40 offshore rigs, ONGC owns nine and the rest are chartered platforms.

The letter, sent on January 21, alleged non-compliance of the Offshore Safety Rules.

What's more, it said ONGC did not get certification for the blow-out preventers (BOPs) - the main anti-explosion device - on the rigs.

ONGC, however, denied having compromised on safety, claiming it had fulfilled all OISD requirements.

But it told HT: "Only two areas are pending - the fit-for-purpose certification and the BOP certification."

In 2010, a BOP failure led to the explosion on the Deepwater Horizon, a BP-owned rig, resulting in the largest oil spill in history. Later, BP had to set up a $20-billion fund to compensate the victims of the spill.

ONGC said the delay in the fit-for-purpose certification was due to some procedural complications, which have been overcome now. On the BOP certification, it said the testing exercises would begin by March and be completed by the next three months.

But OISD said the Petroleum and Natural Gas (Safety in Offshore Operations) Rules were notified in June 2008.

"Though four-and-a-half years have elapsed since then, none of the ONGC-owned rigs have been able to obtain consent to operate... In spite of repeated reminders, no action has been taken on this…"

Former petroleum secretary SC Tripathi said, "The government needs to act immediately... even the regulator should come in."