MP: Mystery behind fire in 'groundwater' in Damoh | india | Hindustan Times
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MP: Mystery behind fire in 'groundwater' in Damoh

The Damoh district administration may have instructed people not to use groundwater from a borewell that was spewing inflammable gas along with water, but the authorities have no clue about the exact substance catching fire.

india Updated: Jan 03, 2015 18:03 IST
Neeraj Santoshi
In-the-past-there-have-been-many-cases-where-villagers-reported-groundwater-and-the-air-coming-out-from-borewells-burning-with-a-blue-flame-Photos-Prof-Arun-Shandilya
In-the-past-there-have-been-many-cases-where-villagers-reported-groundwater-and-the-air-coming-out-from-borewells-burning-with-a-blue-flame-Photos-Prof-Arun-Shandilya

The Damoh district administration may have instructed people not to use groundwater from a borewell that was spewing inflammable gas along with water, but the authorities have no clue about the exact substance catching fire.

In the past, there have been many cases where villagers reported groundwater and the ‘air’ coming out from borewells burning with a blue flame. HT talked to officials and geologists to know the causes of this phenomenon.

Clueless admin
Damoh collector Swatantra Kumar Singh said that after a borewell in Bortai area of the district started spewing inflammable gas along with groundwater, they passed on the instructions to people in the area not to use the water.

"When something like this happens, the standard protocol is to stop people from using such a source of water. The whole Jabera-Damoh area of Vindhyan Basin is stated to have natural gas, but what exactly is coming with water is not yet clear to us. Apart from geologists, the ONGC, which is already exploring the commercial viability of natural gas reserves here, will be in a better position to comment on it," he said.

District mining officer RPS Bhadoria said he was aware of such phenomenon in the district, but he doesn’t know what it is. "This doesn’t come under our department," he said.

Geologist’s take
After talking to many officials and people in Damoh, HT finally found a geologist who has been studying the phenomenon of groundwater catching fire in MP for over a decade.

"Nearly 500 to 600 million old rocks in an area of over 200 sq kms spread over Damoh, Sagar, Vidisha, Katni and Satna districts have fissures and leakages through which gas is coming out with seasonal variations. In my research, I have recorded the existence of around 50 such borewells in this area. Over 30 of them are in Sagar and 15 in Damoh," said Prof Arun Shandilya, the former head of the Department of Applied Geology at Dr Hari Singh Gour University, Sagar.

When asked about the composition, Shandilya said the studies by ONGC and some others have shown that mostly the gases were 99% methane and trace gases like helium, nitrogen, oxygen, ethane and carbon dioxide.

"The presence of helium which is a very rare occurrence shows that this gas has been formed at very high temperatures and this makes these reserves special for geo-scientists," he added.

On how borewells are spewing gas, Shandilya said that the old rock layer called Vindhyan rock is covered by a geologically younger rock layer called Deccan trap in these districts. "When drilling is done on the top Deccan trap rocks, it sometimes pierces the fissures in the Vindhyan rocks beneath, from which gas starts coming out," he said. He, however, stressed that more detailed studies were needed to understand such phenomenon and avoid mishaps.

What is ONGC doing?
Prof Shandilya said the ONGC has been exploring hydrocarbons in MP since 1980s. He said after carrying out studies for nearly two decades, ONGC drilled up to 3 kms below the surface and found natural gas in some areas, but the find wasn’t commercially viable. In 2007, ONGC stated there were indications of natural gas reserves in Piparia (Hoshangabad district), Rajgarh, Jabera (Damoh district) and other parts of the eastern MP. In 2012, ONGC found gas at a well at Nohta in Damoh district and later stated the discovery of gas in four wells in the Damoh-Jabera-Katni block.

When HT contacted some senior officials of ONGC, they refused to comment.