Top Army brass visits Baghjan gas well tragedy site, monitors progress of capping well

Guwahati, Jun 19 (PTI) General Officer Commanding of 3 Corps Lt Gen Rana Pratap Kalita along with other senior officers of the Army visited the site of the gas well fire tragedy at Baghjan in Assam on Friday to monitor the progress of the work to cap the well.

The Army is part of a multi-agency effort to cap the Oil India Limited’s well in Assam's Tinsukia district.

Gas is being spewed from a well for about three weeks now and fire is raging there for over a fortnight.

The production by the PSU major has been hit in the face of public ire and the company has so far lost 7,042 MT of crude oil and 9.23 MMSCM of natural gas output in the last 24 days due to bandh and blockades, the company said.

'Lt General Rana Pratap Kalita, General Officer Commanding of the 3 Corps with other senior officials from 3 Corps, Indian Army visited blowout area today at Baghjan to monitor the progress of work at ground zero,' Oil India Ltd (OIL) said in a statement.

The Army is constructing an around 150 m long bailey bridge over a water body adjacent to the blowout well at Baghjan.

Kalita had a detailed discussion with OIL Director (E&D) P Chandrasekaran, other senior officials from the company and the Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC), the statement said.

'Materials sent from Misamari for construction of bailey bridge by 3 Corps, Indian Army have been unloaded from 11 trucks at Baghjan and unloading of remaining four trucks is underway,' the OIL statement said.

It said 34 heat shields for Indian Army personnel have been handed over and fabrication of additional numbers of heat shields are in progress at OIL's engineering workshop.

The PSU said assembling and testing of the blowout preventer is on to douse the flames.

'Testing of other equipment mobilised from ONGC is on by an expert team of Alert, Singapore at OIL CMT yard and equipment yard in association with CMT-ONGC team and OIL technical team,' it added.

On production loss due to the agitation by locals and some groups, OIL said there was an output cut of 504 MT of crude oil and 0.62 MMSCM of natural gas as reported on Thursday on account of disruption in 33 oil and five gas wells. 'Cumulative production loss since May 27, 2020 due to bandh and blockades is 7,042 MT crude oil, 9.23 MMSCM of natural gas,' it added.

Referring to the company's outreach to the affected villagers, OIL said mosquito repellent cream and other essential items were distributed to around 9,000 people lodged in 13 relief camps.

It said as part of the effort to douse the flames, vehicles carrying the second load of heavy equipment from ONGC's Rajamundry and Vadodara facilities are on the way to Assam.

Various assessments and impact studies of the blowout as well as the blaze in villages and nearby forest areas are being conducted by multiple agencies such as ERM India, TERI, CSIR-NEIST and Assam Agricultural University, the PSU said.

Well number 5 at Baghjan in Tinsukia district of Assam has been spewing gas uncontrollably since May 27 and it caught fire on June 9.

The fire claimed the lives of two of OIL's firefighters at the site.

The blaze at the well is so massive that it can be seen from a distance of more than 30 kms with thick black smoke going up several metres high, endangering the local biodiversity in the Dibru-Saikhowa National Park.

Though there is no fire in the periphery of the well site at present, the company has declared an area up to 1.5 km of radius as 'red zone' to avoid any untoward incident and damage to the general public.

Two officials of the OIL have been suspended for alleged negligence of duty at the gas well site, while a show cause notice has been sent to John Energy Pvt Ltd, the outsourced private operator of the well.

An FIR has also been registered against Oil India and John Energy for the blowout.