Minister of State for Petroleum and Natural Gas Dharmendra Pradhan indicated on Friday that the Government could take a fresh look on a pending proposal by former Oil Minister Jaipal Reddy for a statutory safety regulator specifically for the hydrocarbons sector.

Mr. Pradhan told The Hindu that there would be two separate inquiries to ascertain the cause of the disaster at the GAIL pipeline in Nagaram village in Andhra Pradesh. The Minister said he had instituted a departmental inquiry. The team will be headed by a Joint Secretary and include representatives of the Oil Industry Safety Directorate, the National Disaster Management Authority and Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Ltd. There would also be the State’s inquiry, he said.

A company spokesperson told The Hindu that never before had there been an incident at a GAIL operation site involving casualties. The spokesperson also confirmed that local villagers had on Thursday night complained about gas emanating from the area where the blast occurred.

No complaints were received before that, the spokesperson said, dismissing reports that complaints had been made a week ago. The spokesperson mentioned an unconfirmed report that suggested a stove had been lit at the site but whether it caused the blast that created a big crater at the site and in which a 1.2 m-2 m segment of the pipeline was burnt was not yet confirmed, the spokesperson said.

Former chairman of the Indian Oil Corporation (IOC), R.S. Butola, told The Hindu “structural reasons” could be responsible for the explosion and GAIL must acknowledge that some of its pipelines have begun to age.

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