Three foreign experts, involved in control operations at Oil India Limited’s (OIL) Baghjan 5 well in Upper Assam, suffered burn injuries after a fire broke out near the wellhead area on Wednesday afternoon.
For almost two months now, the energy major has been trying to plug the blowout, first reported on May 27 in the Baghjan oilfield, located close to the Dibru-Saikhowa National Park and Maguri-Motapung wetland in Tinsukia district.
On June 7, experts from the Singapore-based Alert arrived to control the blowout. Subsequently, the well had caught fire on June 9, complicating matters further.
“Today in the afternoon, three experts from M/s Alert namely Anthony Steven Reynolds, Doug Dallas and Craig Neil Duncan suffered minor burn injuries while removing a spool from the wellhead,” said a release from OIL on Wednesday evening.
The trio was taken to the burn unit section of Astha Nursing Home at Dibrugarh and were released after injuries were dressed. The incident took place around 1.30 pm in the afternoon, authorities said.
“The three experts were involved in the opening of the wellhead flange, a very precise operation,” explained Tridiv Hazarika, OIL Spokesperson, “When they were in the final stage of the operation, a portion of the wellhead suddenly caught fire.”
The fire from the June 9 incident continues to rage at the top, about eight to ten feet from the ground. “Today’s fire happened at the bottom, near wellhead,” said Hazarika, clarifying that it was “not an explosion”.
The incident led the capping operations — which are in its final stages — to be called off for the day. According to OIL’s statement, work is expected to resume at Baghjan on Thursday. “All equipment like Blowout Preventer (BOP) and other requirements like flare lines etc, are being kept in ready condition for the capping operation,” said the release. The final step to cap the fire and the blowout will involve re-installing the BOP.
Following the incident, Dharmendra Pradhan, Minister of Petroleum and Natural Gas, took stock of the situation and inquired about the safety of the operations team. Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal advised OIL to provide best of the treatment to the injured experts.
The disaster at Baghjan has impacted the surrounding ecological life and displaced close to 11,000 people from their homes. Both the Central and state governments have instituted inquiries to probe the incident. As per the Tinsukia district administration authorities, the number of people in the relief camps has now reduced.
Last month, the National Green Tribunal had constituted an eight-member Committee of Experts — chaired by Justice BP Katakey, a former judge of the Gauhati High Court — to investigate the matter and submit a preliminary report within 30 days.
On Wednesday, OIL said that the blowout is expected to be controlled soon. “The well control operation continues and capping of the well is expected shortly,” tweeted OIL.
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