Bridge leading to Baghjan Oil well collapses

Bridge leading to Baghjan Oil well collapses
The bridge is located on the Doomdooma-Baghjan road, nearly eight kilometres (km) from the Oil India Limited (OIL) gas well in Baghjan oilfield.
GUWAHATI/New Delhi, JUN 25 ( AGENCIES/IANS) | Publish Date: 6/25/2020 1:06:08 PM IST

Flooding caused by incessant rains since Wednesday and the collapse of a bridge are hampering efforts underway to control the raging fire at a natural gas well in Upper Assam’s Tinsukia district, reports Hindustan Times.

The bridge, located on the Doomdooma-Baghjan road, nearly eight kilometres (km) from the Oil India Limited (OIL) gas well in Baghjan oilfield collapsed on Wednesday because of heavy rains that led to the flooding in the area.

“The bridge is on the route of Baghjan oilfield, where the gas well that caught fire is located. It was being used to transport machinery and equipment needed to douse the fire,” said Nandita Roy Gohain, circle officer, Doomdooma.

“We have provided an alternate route to ferry the equipment, but transportation work is getting affected. Flooding caused by incessant rains is a major deterrent,” she added.

The gas well at Baghjan had a blowout – an uncontrolled release of gas and oil --- on May 27 during a workover operation, or major maintenance work.

It caught fire on June 9, when two firefighters died and around 10,000 local residents were displaced because of the raging inferno.

“The vital bridge on the main route to the well that was being used to carry heavy vehicles collapsed on Wednesday due to flooding. There are two-three alternate routes, but this was the best possible one for carrying heavy equipment,” said Tridiv Hazarika, spokesperson, OIL.

“We have requested the Army to help us. They will try to erect a Bailey bridge, but that could take a week’s time. There could be some delay in the interim for the movement of heavy-loaded vehicles,” he added.

On June 22, battling heavy rains and temperatures over 75 degrees Celsius, nearly 150 army personnel had constructed a Bailey bridge over a water body close to the well.

Over 230 metric tonnes of material were transported over 400 km to construct the bridge, which will be used to deliver water needed to control the fire and plug the blowout.

Plugging a blowout and fire in a gas or oil well require a lot of heavy equipment. On Wednesday, OIL had stated in a release that many important materials -- needed to control the fire and plug the blowout -- are still in transit from other parts of the country.

“Around 80% of the vehicles, carrying heavy equipment, have reached the site. The remaining 20% are also very critical to the operation. We are facing a tremendous challenge,” said Hazarika.

“There has been incessant rainfall since Wednesday night and areas near the well, which are low-lying, are inundated. Rains and flooding are creating problems and the collapse of the bridge was a major blow,” he added.

Earlier, OIL authorities had stated that it would take about four weeks to plug the blowout at the gas well.

Heavy rains that led to flooding, and the bridge collapse could further delay their work.

 NGT imposes Rs 25 crore fine on OIL

The National Green Tribunal on Thursday imposed a heavy fine of Rs 25 crore on Oil India Ltd for causing damage to the environment, humans and wildlife, over its failure to stop the fire at its oil well in Assam’s Baghjan. Enormous volume of inflammable natural gas which was releasing from the Baghjan-5 oil well since May 27 caught fire on June 9, thus claiming lives of two fire-fighters.

Baghjan is one of the 23 oil wells set up by OIL to tap the large gas reserves in the Brahmaputra basin and located near the Eco Sensitive Zone (ESZ) of the Dibru-Saikhowa National Park.

A bench comprising Justice S.P. Wangdi and expert member Siddhanta Das pulled up the company and said: “We direct the OIL to deposit an initial amount of Rs 25 Crores with the District Magistrate, Tinsukia District, Assam and abide by further orders of the Tribunal.”

The tribunal also constituted an eight-member committee headed by former high court judge B.P. Katakey to look into the matter and submit a report in 30 days.

The committee has been asked to probe the cause of the gas and oil leak, extent of loss and damage caused to human life, wildlife, environment, damage and health hazards caused to the public and whether any contamination has been caused to water, air and soil of the area of the oil well and its vicinity.

The blow-out left behind mixture of chemical compounds that are toxic for land and vegetation. It is not only hazardous to the health of the people but also severely affects their livelihood, mainly agriculture, fishing, and animal rearing.

The plea filed by activist Bonani Kakkar pointed fingers at the failure of the OIL authorities in preventing the blowout, resulting in a massive fire causing irreparable loss to the entire biodiversity of the region and loss of lives and property.

“Due to the negligence and lack of concrete effort to control the spread of the oil and gas leak, enormous fire broke-out in the area which continues to rage causing displacement of more than 1600 families,” Kakkar said. The matter will now come up for further consideration on July 29, the NGT said.


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