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Oil well inferno: Assam pollution board asks OIL to shut all operations at the site

The order was issued on Friday, 23 days since a “blowout” – or uncontrolled emission of natural gas – occurred at an oil well and 10 days after a major fire broke out at the site due to the blowout.

Published: 20th June 2020 07:21 PM  |   Last Updated: 20th June 2020 07:21 PM   |  A+A-

Assam OIL well fire

National Disaster Response Force personnel participate in a rescue operation at the site of an oil well that exploded and caught fire at Baghjan, Tinsukia district in Assam. (File Photo | AP)

Express News Service

GUWAHATI: Dealing a body blow to Oil India Limited (OIL), the Pollution Control Board (PCB) of Assam has directed the oil exploration major to “close down” all its production as well as drilling operations at the Baghjan Oil Field in Assam.

The order was issued on Friday, 23 days since a “blowout” – or uncontrolled emission of natural gas – occurred at an oil well and 10 days after a major fire broke out at the site due to the blowout.

The OIL has 17 crude oil wells at the Baghjan Oil Field and the combined production per day is 1,200-kilo litres. The number of OIL’s gas wells at the site is five but production has been disrupted at one due to the blowout and fire. The remaining four others together produce two million metric standard cubic metres of natural gas per day.

ALSO READ | Assam well fire continues, Army joins efforts to douse blaze

In the “closure notice”, the PCB said the OIL was operating at the Baghjan Oil Field without obtaining prior consent to establish/consent to operate which was a serious violation of the provisions of Water Act, 1974, Air Act, 1981 as well as Environment (Protection) Act, 1996.

“…You are operating your Baghjan oil field installation without any Effluent Treatment Plant (ETP). The Baghjan Oil field is located just 500 metres from the Maguri-Motapung wetland which is part of the eco-sensitive zone of the Dibru-Saikhowa National Park which is affected severely due to the negligence from your end,” the closure notice reads.

ALSO READ | Fire in Assam gas well periphery doused, experts from US, Canada to join efforts to control blaze

The PCB said the OIL was required to take adequate measures to prevent spillage of hazardous wastes into the water bodies through designated drains and treatment facilities and further to prevent measures to mitigate oil spillage and fire hazards.

“You are destroying the aquatic life of Dibru-Saikhowa National Park and Maguri-Motapung wetland of endangered species in the name of exploring oil without any mitigation measures. It is observed that you have been operating your production as well as drilling installations without being equipped with proper safety & precautionary measures for which often major accidents are occurred at the drill sites/production installations,” the notice further reads.

The PCB said the blowout and resultant fire underscored the OIL’s negligence and carelessness towards the safety of people’s lives and property as well as protection of the environment.

The PCB did not entertain a request from the OIL to extend the time to reply to a show-cause notice served on June 10. It directed the public sector undertaking to take all measures for extinguishing the fire. The inferno is raging despite efforts being made by experts, including some flown in from a Singapore-based firm, to douse it.

The OIL’s production has been already hit due to bandhs and blockades enforced by locals in protest against the Baghjan incident. Cumulative production loss since the incident was 7,627 metric tonnes of crude oil and 9.87 million metric standard cubic metres of natural gas.

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