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Gas well fire put out 110 days after blowout

Long battle:The Baghjan gas well in Assam’s Tinsukia district after the firefighting operation.Special Arrangement  

The flame atop the Baghjan well no. 5 in Tinsukia district of eastern Assam has been tamed, 110 days after it had a disastrous blowout.

A blowout is an uncontrolled escape of gas at great speeds, usually due to equipment failure.

Oil India Ltd. (OIL) and foreign experts on Sunday managed to divert the gas to two controlled flare pits. This cut off the supply to the well head and the fire died out.

‘Complex process’

“This was a complex process for reducing the surface-level well head pressure. Simply put, the fire was doused by successfully diverting the gas coming out of the blowout well head. Because there is no fuel, there is no fire,” OIL spokesperson Tridiv Hazarika said from the exploration major’s headquarters at Duliajan in Dibrugarh district.

“This is a temporary relief till we are able to kill the well,” he said.

The gas was diverted to the flare pits at 8.40 a.m. after closing the blowout preventer — a device vital for killing a crude oil or gas well — that was placed on the well head on August 17 for a successful capping after a few failed attempts.

“Well head pressures and related parameters are being monitored and once the whole system is stabilised, the next line of action will be undertaken for well-killing operation,” an expert engaged in disaster control said.

The killing of the well entails injecting the killing fluid — a viscous cement mud — through the inlet of the blowout preventer to a depth of 3.5 km. The fluid is expected to plug subterranean perforations and block the surge of natural gas.

Well no. 5, one of the 22 crude oil and natural gas wells in the Baghjan oilfield close to the Dibru-Saikhowa National Park, had a blowout on May 27. It burst into flames on June 9.

Three deaths

The accident has so far killed three OIL employees — two firemen who died fighting the flame and a 25-year-old electrical engineer who was electrocuted while checking cables at the site.

Three of the six foreign experts engaged for disaster control had also sustained injuries during a failed capping operation.