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‘Roadmap’ ready to douse Assam gas well fire, says Oil India

At least two fire fighters of OIL were killed and four others including one from ONGC were injured near the oil well blowout site on Wednesday.

SNS | New Delhi |

A “roadmap” has been chalked out to douse the oil well fire in Tinsukia district of Assam, which continues to blaze for the fourth day on Friday and has till now claimed two lives, the state-owned Oil India Ltd (OIL) announced.

An OIL release said that a “roadmap” for the well control operation by experts’ team from Singapore based M/s Alert, along with ONGC (Oil and Natural Gas Corporation), Crisis Management Team and VP Mahawar, Ex-Director (Onshore) of ONGC has been prepared to put out the inferno and plug the 17-day long leakage of gas and oil condensate in an OIL’s oil well in Tinsukia district.

It also added that a high discharge water pump was placed at the site while suitable place for stacking of materials and equipment was being mobilised from ONGC to be used for the control operation has been identified.

Engineers accompanied by experts from Singapore firm and National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) further intensified their efforts to tame the blaze.

Earlier, Oil India had said that experts working to put out the fire and blowout at its Baghjan facility are confident that the gas well can be capped safely, but it may take as long as four weeks to control the situation.

At least two fire fighters of OIL were killed and four others including one from ONGC were injured near the oil well blowout site on Wednesday. The inferno was so intense that it could be seen from as far as 10 km away. People on social media said they could see it from their window and it gave them “Chernobyl-like” vibe.

Around 7,000 people were evacuated and sheltered in 12 relief camps while the inferno completely and partially burnt more than 35 houses. The OIL has lost over 467 MT of crude oil production from 59 producing wells due to blockades by the local people and various students’ organisations in two districts of Assam.

OIL was forced to stop its operations in three drilling locations and nine work-over locations spread over the areas of Baghjan (Dighal tarrnag), Barekuri, Dhakual, North Balijan, Bozaloni, Borhapjan, Jorajan and Naharkatiya in Tinsukia and Dibrugarh districts.

The state-owned OIL has also given financial aid of Rs 30,000 to each of the affected families.

The Singapore-based emergency management firm has been trying to plug the leakage of gas and oil condensate for more than two weeks. The state government has also sought the Indian Air Force’s help.

An OIL spokesman said that the fire has been controlled in a 1.5 km radius area but it is still raging as the “uncontrollable” natural gas is being fed by the well’s oil.

Local people said that the inferno has left a trail of devastation in the adjoining areas, including a famous lake. Farmlands with standing crops, as well as ponds and wetlands in the adjoining villages have also been badly affected and the threat is growing with every passing day.

Experts, environmentalists and wildlife activists are worried as the Dibru-Saikhowa National Park, known for its feral horses, is less than 2 km away from the OIL’s well site.

Meanwhile, Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal on Thursday ordered a high-level inquiry into the circumstances that led to the massive fire at the gas well.

The investigation will be conducted by Additional Chief Secretary Maninder Singh and the report will be submitted within 15 days, a PTI report said.

The probe will also look into the allegation of negligence on the part of some officials of the company and its private well operator. It will find out who is responsible for this tragedy.

Two officials of public sector unit (PSU) Oil India Limited have been suspended for alleged negligence of duty at the gas well site, while a show-cause notice has been sent to John Energy Pvt Ltd, the outsourced private operator of the well.

(With inputs from IANS)