National

Pradhan vows to act against gas well blowout guilty

Govt. announces sops for the affected area as experts prepare to cap well

Petroleum and Natural Gas Minister Dharmendra Pradhan has promised strict action against those responsible for the blowout at a natural gas well of Oil India Limited (OIL) in eastern Assam’s Tinsukia district.

He also assured the affected families of maximum compensation after the damage was assessed, even as foreign and Indian disaster control experts advanced their preparations to cap the well that has been spewing gas and oil condensates uncontrollably since May 27 before bursting into flames on June 9. The preparations include pumping water into two reservoirs of 15,000-kilolitre capacity for dousing the flame.

OIL officials said the blowout would take at least four weeks to control after the flames were put out.

Mr. Pradhan visited the well site — Baghjan near the Dibru-Saikhowa National Park — with Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal on Sunday to assess the situation and meet the locals and pressure groups that have been protesting across OIL’s drilling sites, affecting crude oil and gas production.

“Our primary concern is the lives, property and security of the people. We have assured them of all help. I have requested them to cooperate with the government, with OIL which has been serving Assam for more than 100 years,” Mr. Pradhan said.

He added that he had been in touch with the State government and OIL for controlling the blowout as soon as possible. “We will not spare anyone found responsible for the blowout, no matter how powerful he is,” he said.

Villagers and representatives submitted to the Chief Minister and the Union Minister a list of demands and suggestions. They assured them of a slew of development projects such as a model hospital, anti-erosion measures and converting the Maguri-Motapung wetland damaged by the blowout into an international tourist destination.

OIL officials said several steps for capping the well had been completed, while key instruments from Oil and Natural Gas Corporation’s operations in Andhra Pradesh were being awaited. Among the completed steps were connecting suction pipes and setting up pumps for water to fight the flames “restricted to the well-head now”.

“Protests continue at many of our drilling sites. We have lost 509 metric tonnes of crude oil and a large volume of natural gas because of the agitations around 32 wells and 26 associated gas wells,” an OIL spokesperson said.

The inferno on June 9 had claimed the lives of two OIL fire-fighters — one about to retire and the other a footballer. The fire also destroyed at least 50 houses in the Baghjan area.

Environmentalists and wildlife activists fear the incident severely damaged the flora and fauna of the area. The ecologically fragile Dibru-Saikhowa National Park, known for its feral horses, is about 1 km away.

The last blowout in Assam was at OIL’s Dikom crude well in 2005. Foreign experts had to be flown in for controlling the blaze for 45 days.

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Printable version | Jul 11, 2020 8:09:23 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/pradhan-vows-to-act-against-gas-well-blowout-guilty/article31829263.ece

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