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Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Thirty hours and counting: Gas leak from rig well in Andhra yet to be fixed, lights off in nearby village

With a team of experts from ONGC's Narsapuram, Rajahmundry and Tatipaka units unable to control the leak or even estimate the pressure of the gas coming out, they have sought help from another team from Mumbai.

Written by Rahul V Pisharody | Hyderabad | Updated: February 4, 2020 3:17:48 am
hyderabad gas leak, Katrenikona mandal gas leak, andhra pradesh village, ongc, indian express It is natural gas coming from beneath the earth in very high pressure, Katrenikona Tehsildar GVS Prasad said. (Photo: Screengrab/ Twitter @Lokeshpaila)

Thirty hours have passed since a gas leakage from a rig well was reported in Uppidi village of East Godavari district (Katrenikona Mandal) in Andhra Pradesh and authorities are yet to find a way to stop it. People living in two villages — Uppidi and Nagicheruvu — have been shifted to relief camps, while efforts are on to stop the leakage from the rig well.

With a team of experts from ONGC’s Narsapuram, Rajahmundry and Tatipaka units unable to control the leak or even estimate the pressure of the gas coming out, they have sought help from another team from Mumbai. As on Monday evening, the personnel continue to pour water and mud to contain the gas leakage.

The rig well is operated by the PFH Oil and Gas Private Limited, a private agency. “It smells like burning diesel or thick smoke. The rig well is just 100 metres away from the village. We first asked the villagers not to light anything at homes. Power has been shut down in the entire Mandal. Around 350 families, including 700 to 750 people from Uppidi and Nagicheruvu villages, along with their cattle and livestock, have been shifted to relief camps 8 km away in Cheyuru,” said an official who is part of the operation.

Speaking to indianexpress.com, Katrenikona Tehsildar GVS Prasad clarified that it was a rig well, and not a gas pipeline as thought earlier. “It is natural gas coming from beneath the earth in very high pressure. It is not inflammable as the hydrocarbon content is less than 2 per cent, and could contain some methane. We are taking precautions. In the long run, it can be hazardous,” said Prasad. According to him, the cause of the gas leakage appeared to be lack of maintenance. “They may not have the technology or expertise to handle a rig well. They have failed to do their regular maintenance works,” he added.

East Godavari district collector D Muralidhar Reddy told indianexpress.com that an inquiry into the incident is underway. This was the second gas pipeline leak incident reported in East Godavari district in the last three days.

Reddy added that the rig well has been non-operational for the last eight to 10 years. “Not much of flammable gas is available. We checked for hydrocarbon content in the air, and found it to be below the danger level,” he said.

About the rescue operation that has surpassed 30 hours, he said “Our expert team is on the ground. Initially, we thought we could close it by today evening but unfortunately, our plan did not work. We thought of having a water blanket or water umbrella over there. That could not be implemented. Plan-B is the injection of the mud to fill the well. By tomorrow early hours, they will start the operation.”

Had it been an operational rig well, there could have been severe damage like that in case of a pipeline blast, he said. “Today the chief minister has instructed us to get details of such incidents to device a permanent solution. We will have to verify if the rig well operator has informed ONGC about its status. Wherever such mishaps have happened, we will get all the details and send it to the government. Based on that, the government will come up with a policy.”

Apart from around 100 personnel from ONGC, 100 firefighters and over 20 fire brigades, 100 policemen and 100 revenue personnel, and medical teams are on the ground.

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