Assam oil well fire leakage expected to be capped in 2-3 days

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Guwahati: Indian and foreign experts are now in the final stages of capping the oil well leakage and the fire at the state-owned Oil India (OIL) field in Assam. They are expected to control and douse the blaze by early next week, a top official said here on Friday.

“We are in the final phase of capping the well and dousing the fire at the Baghjan oil field in Assam’s Tinsukia district. We expect the operation to be over in two-three days,” a senior OIL official said. Natural gas and oil condensate started leaking from an oil well two months ago. It caught fire one-and-a-half months ago. The official said that the excavation of ramps and cellar and opening of a wellhead flange are complete while other technical formalities and requirements are underway.

“As part of the final phase of preparation for the killing operation after capping of the well, sufficient chemicals are in place at site. Recce has been carried out for coil tubing job and BP placement after well killing operation,” the OIL official clarified. “All necessary arrangements for capping operations are being made including the smoke stack on the 90ft Athey Wagon. The capping stack was ready and wrapped with ceramic blanket and ceramic cloth.” American and Canadian experts and engineers, who are associated with Singapore-based M/S ALERT, firefighters, NDRF personnel and OIL and ONGC engineers continued their efforts to check the gas leak and douse the well fire at Baghjan.

The OIL officials said that besides hostile weather, the experts, engineers and workers have been facing numerous other problems in putting out the fire and capping the gas leak at Baghjan, around 550 kms east of Assam’s main city of Guwahati.

So far, since May 27, over 16,217 MT of crude oil and around 36.32 million standard cubic metres per day of natural gas have been lost as a section of agitators continue with their protests for higher compensation in a few locations in Tinsukia district.

Though some of the agitators called off the protests and lifted the road blockade last month, others continue to demand higher compensation for the affected people and hold OIL responsible for the mishap. OIL has so far provided Rs 30,000 to each of the affected families and arranged shelter and relief for them.

OIL officials said transportation of consignments, comprising heavy machinery and equipment, from Rajahmundry (Andhra Pradesh), Vadodara (Gujarat) and other places was delayed due to the COVID-19 protocols and standard operating procedures.

In the meantime, the Army has built a 150-metre bridge over a water body to facilitate technical work to control the gas leak and oil well fire, following a request from Tinsukia Deputy Commissioner Bhaskar Pegu. Around 10,000 people have been evacuated and sheltered in 14 relief camps as the fire damaged many houses and other property.

Local people said the fire had left a trail of devastation in the adjoining areas, including a famous lake. Farms with standing crops as well as ponds and wetlands in the adjoining villages have also been affected.

Various NGOs and government bodies, including Tata Energy Research Institute (TERI), have been conducting environmental and pollution studies in view of the fire and blowout of natural gas and oil condensates.

The TERI is also arranging drone-fly cameras for aerial photography and videography of the affected areas and surveys are being carried out depending on weather conditions.