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Watch | Assam river burns for two days after crude oil spillage

OIL officials said the crude would have settled in time for the specialised team to recover and insisted that the loss due to burning of the crude was minimal.

OIL officials said the crude would have settled in time for the specialised team to recover and insisted that the loss due to burning of the crude was minimal.  

A stretch of a river in eastern Assam’s Dibrugarh district burned for two days following the spillage of crude oil from “punctured pipelines”. The fire was extinguished by Monday noon. 

Officials of Oil India Limited (OIL), which has its headquarters at Duliajan in the district, said the crude that trickled into the Burhidihing river after midnight of January 31 could have been recovered had the stretch not been set on fire.

OIL as well as the district authorities, however, did not rule out accidental fire in that stretch of about 500 metres.

“Our team specialising in crude oil recovery and damage restoration had done their job that very night when one of our central tank pumps had an instrument failure making a valve stop instantly. Almost 99% of the spillage was on land but the rest fell in a leader drain that is linked to the Burhidihing,” OIL’s senior manager (corporate communications) Tridiv Hazarika told The Hindu from Duliajan, about 400 km east of Guwahati.

Crude extracted from OIL’s wells in eastern Assam is pumped into the central tank pumps where it is processed and sent to the century-old Digboi refinery on one side and refineries elsewhere in the country on the other.

‘Damage minimal’

“As the valve closed, a reverse pressure was created in the pipelines and crude spilt from resultant punctures in the pipelines in two places. By the time the leakage was identified, the spillage happened in the leader drain that was not noticed immediately at night,” Mr. Hazarika said.

OIL officials said the crude, if not ignited, would have settled in time for the specialised team to recover and insisted that the loss due to burning of the crude was minimal. 

Dibrugarh Deputy Commissioner Pallav Gopal Jha said the fire was extinguished but the administration was upset with the incident. “An expert committee comprising the administration, Pollution Control Board and OIL officials have been monitoring the situation for minimising the environmental damage. “I have sought a report on how the spillage happened and the fire started. Other aspects are also being explored,” he added.

Environmentalists said OIL or any other exploration agency should take a lesson from the accident. “Spillage of crude or processed oil in river bodies threatens aquatic life, which an ecologically delicate State like Assam can ill afford,” said green activist Soumyadeep Dutta. 

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Printable version | Aug 15, 2020 1:48:52 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/assam-river-on-fire-for-two-days-after-crude-oil-spillage/article30724994.ece

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