Sunday, June 26, 2022

Assam well blowout: Govt forms high-level panel to probe state’s worst oil well fire in decade

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  • The three-member committee will be headed by Director General, DGH, and will include a former Chairman and a former Director of ONGC

  • Over the course of these 17 days, the well blowout has become one of the worst industrial accidents of the times and Assam’s worst well blowout in a decade

New Delhi: Sixteen days and two deaths later, the Centre has constituted a three-member high-level committee to probe the well blowout in an oilfield belonging to state-run OIL (Oil India Limited) in Tinsukia district, Assam. Over the course of these 17 days, the well blowout has become one of the worst industrial accidents of the times and Assam’s worst oil well fire in a decade as is yet to be controlled, despite efforts being made by ONGC (Oil & Natural Gas Corporation) and OIL and foreign experts being roped in.

Assam well blowout: Panel will consist of DGH, ONGC’s top former executives

In a tweet, the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas said that the three-member committee will be headed by Director General, DGH (Directorate General of Hydrocarbons), and will include a former Chairman and a former Director of ONGC. “MoPNG has constituted a three member high-level committee comprising of Shri SCL Das, DG @DghIndia, Shri BC Bora, former chairman @ONGC_ & Shri TK Sengupta, former Director @ONGC_ to inquire about the circumstances that led to the blowout incident in Baghjan,” it said.

The three-member expert committee will identify and submit a report on lapses/gaps, if any, in following the laid-down protocols and procedures which led to the blowout. The committee will also recommend short and long-term measures to prevent recurrence of such events, it added. “MoPNG is fully cognisant to the gravity of the situation developing in Baghjan and is committed for the safety and well-being of people in Assam,” the ministry said.

Assam’s well blowout has been an ecological disaster

The well blowout incident has been particularly dangerous because of the oilfield’s proximity to the Dibru Saikhowa national park, which is a biodiversity hotspot, and the famous migratory bird habitat Maguri-Motapung Beel. A well blowout means an uncontrolled escape of crude oil or natural gas from an oil well. Oil and natural gas have been seeping into the nearby wetlands which are home to a variety of species and the atmosphere for 17 days now and has killed animals in the vicinity.

Visuals that have emerged in the aftermath of the incident have shown Gangetic dolphins, fish floating up to the water surface after dying. The fire that broke out on June 9 spread to the national park and burnt trees and around 50 houses in the vicinity. It has also displaced 1,610 families. Two OIL firefighters involved in dousing the flames died on June 10. The incident has become Assam’s worst-ever well blowout in more than a decade, with the only precedent being the oil well fire in Dikom in Dibrugarh in 2005. 

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