Assam gas well fire could take 4 weeks to extinguish, says OIL
Oil India Limited said on Tuesday that it could take at least four more weeks to control the fire and plug the blowout at a natural gas well that ignited earlier in the day in Baghjan in Assam’s Tinsukia district.
The gas well had been spewing gas and condensate since the blowout began on May 27.
The fire broke out at the well a day after three experts from Singapore had reached the area to attempt plugging the well.
“Emergency meetings are underway with the expert team. They have expressed it is now a safe environment for working and are confident that the situation can be controlled and the well capped safely,” OIL said in a statement.
“The situation demands arrangement of large quantities of water, installation of high discharge pumps and removal of debris. All the operations as per the experts will take about four weeks. Efforts will be made to reduce this time frame as much as possible,” it added.
Meanwhile, Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal directed industries minister Chandra Mohan Patowary to rush to the site and take stock of the situation. He also suggested use of IAF aircraft to douse the fire.
“Instructions have been issued to district officials to ensure safety of local residents. Police, military, para-military forces and NDRF are present at the spot,” Sonowal told journalists.
“I have apprised Union petroleum minister Dharmendra Pradhan about the incident and asked him to take steps to contain the fire and the blowout. Indian Air Force (IAF) can also play a role in controlling the fire and I have asked defence minister Rajnath Singh about it,” he added.
Sonowal asked residents of the area and Tinsukia town, which is 9 km away from the site not to panic and assured all help from the state government.
Smoke could be seen billowing from the well several kilometers away from the site close to Dibru Saikhowa National Park and the eco-sensitive Maguri Mottapung wetland.
“The fire broke out at 1:40 pm at the site. The reason for the outbreak is not ascertained yet. Apart from a fireman of Oil and Natural Gas Commission (ONGC) who sustained minor injury, no one else has been injured,” said Jayant Bormudoi, senior manager (corporate communication) of OIL.
“The experts were not present at the site when the fire broke out. They were at meetings in OIL office in Duliajan. There is no immediate threat to residents of the area who have already been shifted beyond a radius of 1.5 km from the well,” Bormudoi added.
Following the blowout nearly 2,000 people residing near the well had been shifted to four relief camps.
Meanwhile, local residents have started protesting close to the blowout site blaming OIL for failing to control the disaster for two weeks. OIL has asked the state government to control the situation so that experts and officials can reach the site to control the fire and blowout.
The Baghjan well suffered the blowout on May 27 while work was underway to produce gas from a new oil and gas bearing reservoir at a depth of 3,729 metres.