In Assam, blowout of natural gas well still to be controlled, over 700 evacuated
The natural gas well operated by Oil India Limited (OIL) in Assam’s Tinsukia district that witnessed a blowout on Wednesday continued to spill out gas and condensate matter for the fourth day on Saturday as authorities continued efforts to bring it under control.
Over 700 people residing within 1.5 km radius of the well located in Baghjan area have been shifted to three camps amid concerns that the continuous spilling of gas and condensate matter containing oil could affect residents as well as the area located near the Dibru Saikhowa National Park.
A blowout is uncontrolled release of crude oil or gas from a well when the pressure control systems fail. Condensate is a low density high gravity hydrocarbon phase that is generally found along with natural gas.
“My house is located around 1.5 km from the well. Condensate from the blowout which is carried by air is falling on trees and homes of people in the area including my house. In addition, the sound produced by the blowout, which is like a huge storm, is also affecting residents,” Madhab Moran, a resident of Baghjan said.
According to a statement by OIL on May 27, the blowout happened at the Baghjan 5 well at 10:30 am while work was underway to produce gas from a new oil and gas bearing reservoir at a depth of 3729 metres. OIL officials say that it could take more than two days to start work on controlling the well.
There’s fear among residents and environment enthusiasts that the blowout if not controlled soon could have lasting effect on the area and its residents. The carcass of a Gangetic dolphin, an endangered species, was found in Maguri wetland close to the OIL well.
“The dolphin didn’t have any injury marks and its skin had peeled off. People have noticed oil in Maguri wetlands, which could have spilled from the OIL well. Because of the blowout there’s a layer of oil like substance dripping from trees and roofs of houses in the area,” said Binanda Hatibarua, a bird enthusiast who stays close to the well and visited the site.
OIL officials said though the process to contain the blowout is underway several measures have to be put in place before the actual operation can be started. They include ensuring adequate supply of water, proper lighting and transportation of heavy equipment to the site.
“A lot of preliminary work needs to be done to enter the well site. We are doing that and it would take at least another two days to reach the well and try and contain it,” said OIL spokesperson Tridiv Hazarika.
On Friday, Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal called union petroleum minister Dharmendra Pradhan and urged him to take immediate remedial measures to bring the situation under control.
OIL had issued a statement on Friday that food and logistic support is being provided to the residents who have been shifted to camps and that continuous monitoring is underway to minimize any environmental impact.
Earlier, on May 11, the union forest, environment and climate change ministry had given environmental clearance for extension drilling and testing of hydrocarbons at seven locations by OIL under the Dibru-Saikhowa National Park area in Tinsukia district of Assam.