The last leg of operations to control the blowout and fire at Oil India Limited (OIL)’s Baghjan well in Upper Assam faced a setback on Friday, just as engineers were attempting to place the Blowout Preventer (BOP) to plug the leak.
For more than two months now, the energy major has been trying to control 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.
“While the capping operation was being attempted, the Athey Wagon toppled over at the last moment, and the attempt did not succeed” said a release from OIL on Friday evening.
The Athey Wagon is a 90-foot-long vehicle used to lift heavy equipment — in this case the BOP, a device that needs to be reinstalled at the well head, following which the well can be ‘killed’ or shut down completely.
“It is very disappointing,” said Tridiv Hazarika, spokesperson, OIL, “We would have been able plug the blowout today itself, if the wagon had not toppled.”
He added, “A well-killing liquid — which is basically chemically created mud — would be pushed into the well at high pressure to complete the operations.”
The spokesperson said the process may take up to four-five hours, depending on the condition of the activity underground.
The release said that engineers were trying to ascertain why the wagon toppled at the last moment. “Our focus now is to look into the damage and repair the wagon,” said Hazarika, “The capping operations will resume after that.”
Friday’s incident delays the plugging operations at least by a day or two.
In June, incessant rain and flooding leading to a bridge collapse had delayed work at the site. Later, 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 earlier in July.
“We lost a good eight-ten days when the bridge collapsed because of the rains,” said Hazarika, “There have also been periodic blockades/gheraos by local people at the site.”
The disaster at Baghjan has impacted the surrounding ecological life and displaced close to 11,000 people from their homes. However, the number of people in relief camps have reduced now.
Recently, a preliminary report by a panel of experts set up by the National Green Tribunal (NGT), flagged a series of transgressions by OIL with regard to permission and environmental clearances in its projects in the Baghjan oilfield. The report also highlighted the severe impact of the blowout in the surrounding areas.
Hazarika said that OIL will respond to the report at the upcoming NGT hearing scheduled for August 6.
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