A major fire broke out at Guru Gobind Singh refinery, a joint venture of Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Limited and Mittal Energy Limited (HMEL), near Phullokhari village on the Bathinda-Dabwali road, 45 km from here on Friday, but no casualties were reported.
The fire broke out at 6.30 am in the vacuum gas oil (VGO) treating unit, which separates sulphur from crude oil, with a big blast, resulting in around 40-ft-high flames originating from the unit that were visible from the villages around the refinery. The big blast, according to the residents, was followed by two more blasts of lesser intensity.
As many as 15 fire tenders -- 12 from the refinery and one each from National Fertilisers Limited, Bathinda municipal corporation and Rampura Phul municipal committee -- were pressed into service and the fire could be brought under control only after around five hours. Though the company claimed that the fire was brought under control by 7.30 am, smoke emanated from the refinery till 11.30 am.
"As a result, the VGO unit was shut down immediately. The remaining units are operating as usual and the refinery is functional. An inquiry has been started to know the cause of the fire. Corrective steps and action will follow," said Sangeetha R Chakravarthy, head, corporate communications, HMEL.
She said the company would assess the losses and the process would be completed in a couple of days. She maintained that the production would not suffer and the company would meet its production targets.
Such was the impact of the blast that it shook the houses in nearby villages of Phullokhari and Kanakwal in Punjab and Hassu village in the neighbouring Haryana. The pieces of aluminium sheet from the VGO unit were strewn around at Kanakwal village, 2 km away.
Gurmail Singh, a resident of Kanakwal, said the impact of the blast could be gauged from the fact that the metal sheets reached the village which could have harmed the residents. He said the blast was so severe that even the cattle broke off their ropes to break free. Anticipating a big tragedy, a few villagers left their houses to return only after the situation was brought under control.
A similar fire had broken out at the refinery in April last year, leading to panic among the residents of nearby villages.
The refinery that started functioning on April 28, 2012 has a capacity of manufacturing nine million tonnes of petroleum products a year. The products manufactured in the refinery are liquid petroleum gas, petrol, diesel, aviation turbine fuel used as fuel in aircraft, kerosene, polypropylene, pet coke and sulphur.