For the second time in ten days, the final operations to cap well number 5 at Oil India Limited (OIL)’s Baghjan oilfield in Assam’s Tinsukia district failed on Monday morning.
The operations at the well, which has been the site of a blowout and a fire for more than two months now, suffered a setback on July 31 when the Athey wagon toppled while placing the Blowout Preventer (BOP) — the device essential to plug the leak — on the well head.
This time, however, the PSU made progress and was able to place the BOP on the well head on Monday morning, before the experts decided to remove it because one of the cables of the Athey wagon, a 90-foot-long vehicle used to lift the BOP, snapped.
“We successfully finished the very critical task of placing the BOP on the well head,” said Tridiv Hazarika, OIL spokesperson, “But in the next step, when the experts were trying to align the BOP into the sockets, one of the bull lines (ropes) connected to the Athey Wagon snapped due to impact of excessive heat and we had to call the operation off.”
A release from OIL on Monday said: “From the safety point of view and stability required for alignment of the BOP stack on the well head, experts decided to safely remove the BOP stack from the well head. Operations will resume after carrying out necessary rectification jobs.”
Hazarika said the rectification job involves dismantling the wagon, transporting it back to their workshop in Duliajan, 63 km away. “The repair job will take only two hours but the journey back-and-forth will take time,” he said. This delays OIL capping operations by a few days at least.
In June, incessant rain and flooding leading to a bridge collapse had delayed work at the site. In July, three foreign experts from Singapore, who had especially been called in for the operations, suffered burn injuries when part of the well suddenly caught fire.
Following the placement of the BOP, the well can be killed in about eight hours. This involves injecting a well-killing fluid at high-pressure as well as dousing the fire.
The blowout was first reported on May 27, following which, on June 9, it caught fire, impacting surrounding human and animal life especially in the Dibru-Saikhowa National Park and Maguri-Motapung wetland located close by. The incident had displaced close to 11,000 people, many of whom are still in the relief camps.
On Thursday, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) passed an order rejecting OIL’s objections to the preliminary report submitted by a panel of experts constituted by the tribunal. The report, submitted on July 24, flagged a series of transgressions by OIL with regard to permission and environmental clearances in its projects in the Baghjan oilfield. It also highlighted the severe impact of the blowout in the surrounding areas.
The bench accepted the interim compensation recommended by the committee, and said that the district administration needs to identify those eligible for compensation within one month. As per the release by OIL, 2,739 families have been surveyed for assessment of damage in Doomdooma and Tinsukia Circles till August 9.
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