It will take two more months to douse the oil well fire in Assam, which has been raging for about three months and causing irreversible damage to a national park and the nearby ecology, the state’s commerce and industry minister told the Assembly on Wednesday.
Natural gas and oil condensate started leaking from an oil well of the state-owned Oil India Limited (OIL) field at Baghjan in eastern Assam’s Tinsukia district around 100 days back. The leakage caught fire around three months ago on June 9.
Responding to a query by Congress MLA Durga Bhumij, minister Chandra Mohan Patowary told the House that a team of experts from Canada with all modern equipment is on the way to Baghjan to “kill” the well through “snubbing technology”.
“After carrying out preparatory works, the Canadian experts may take 6-8 weeks to plug the gas leakage and douse the fire,” the minister said.
“The OIL experts and engineers are also working to control the well at least temporarily by diverting the gas flow through a diverter and then generating natural gas through two parallel lines,” he said.
Patowary said a total of 3,000 families have been shifted to 14 relief camps and OIL, along with the state government, is providing relief to them.
American and Canadian experts and engineers, who are associated with Singapore-based M/S ALERT, firefighters, NDRF personnel and OIL and ONGC (Oil and Natural Gas Corporation) engineers are continuing their efforts to check the gas leak and douse the well fire at Baghjan.
An OIL official, who refused to be named, said that besides the recent floods and hostile weather, experts, engineers and workers have been facing numerous other problems in putting out the fire and capping the gas leak at Baghjan, around 550 km east of Guwahati.
So far, since May 27, huge amount of crude oil and natural gas have been lost as a section of agitators continue with their protests for higher compensation and on other issues at a few locations in Tinsukia district.
Though some of the agitators called off the protests and lifted the road blockades, others continue to demand higher compensation for the affected people and hold OIL responsible for the mishap.
OIL has so far provided Rs 30,000 to each of the affected families and arranged shelter and relief for them. OIL officials said transportation of consignments comprising heavy machinery and equipment from Rajahmundry (Andhra Pradesh), Vadodara (Gujarat) and other places was delayed due to the Covid-19 protocols and standard operating procedures which are in place.
In the meantime, the Army has built a 150-metre bridge over a water body to facilitate technical work to control the gas leak and oil well fire, following a request from Tinsukia Deputy Commissioner Bhaskar Pegu.
Environmentalists and locals said the fire had left a trail of devastation in the adjoining areas, including the Dibru-Saikhowa National Park.
Farms with standing crops as well as ponds and wetlands in the adjoining villages have also been affected. Various NGOs and government bodies, including the Tata Energy Research Institute (TERI), have been conducting environmental and pollution studies in view of the fire and gas leak.
TERI is also arranging drone cameras for aerial photography and videography of the affected areas and surveys are being carried out depending on weather conditions.