Attempt to plug blow out of Assam gas well fails as wagon falls over
The final attempt to plug the blowout at an Oil India Limited’s (OIL) natural gas well at Baghjan in Upper Assam’s Tinsukia district, which has been on fire since June 9, suffered a setback on Friday, when a wagon used in the process “toppled over”.
Foreign experts and their Indian counterparts were attempting to place the blowout preventer (BOP) stack, weighing nearly 3 tonnes, on the wellhead, when the Athey Wagon, a type of hydraulic lift used to fight oil-field fires consisting of a track-mounted boom with a hook in one end, fell down.
“BOP stack was hooked up with the Athey Wagon for placing on the wellhead. While the final capping operation was being attempted, the Athey Wagon toppled over at the last moment and the attempt did not succeed,” said a statement issued by OIL.
It added that the reasons for the incident are being ascertained in a bid to undertake the next course of action.
Installation of the BOP was the penultimate task needed to complete the operation.
Once the BOP is installed, the process of ‘killing the well’ was to start immediately.
That was to be done by injecting a ‘kill fluid’, a sludge-like specially prepared mud, into the well slowly to push the gas from it back to the reservoir.
Earlier this week, OIL authorities had stated that the process would take two-three days and the operation would be over by Thursday (July 30).
But Friday’s incident is expected to delay the process further.
“Experts are looking at all issues right now. Operations to cap the well will resume on Saturday morning,” said Tridiv Hazarika, spokesperson, OIL.
The gas well had witnessed a blowout -- an uncontrolled release of gas or oil -- during a workover operation, or maintenance work, to locate a new reservoir, on May 27. While efforts were underway to plug the blowout, the well caught fire on June 9, killing two firefighters. The fire has been burning ever since.
Initially, OIL authorities had said that the blowout would be plugged in a month.
Later, the deadline was extended to July 7.
But delays due to floods, technical glitches, and burn injury of three foreign experts while attempting to douse the flames have led to several delays.
Since the Baghjan well is located close to Dibru Saikhowa National Park (DNSP) and the ecologically-sensitive Maguri Motapung Wetland, there were fears of environmental damage to the area due to the blowout and the blaze. Several studies by different agencies are underway to measure the extent of damage in the ecologically-fragile surroundings.
In June, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) had ordered the formation of an expert committee to probe the blowout and subsequent fire and assess the damage caused to human life, wildlife, and the environment because of the industrial disaster.