Unable To Plug Assam Gas Leak For 6 Days, Oil Major Turns To Foreign Experts

The continuous release of gas threatens sensitive wetlands, a national park and endangered species in the area, sources said.

Unable To Plug Assam Gas Leak For 6 Days, Oil Major Turns To Foreign Experts

The well exploded in a fountain of crude oil after pressure control systems failed last week (File)

Guwahati:

Unable to plug a natural gas leak in one of its upper Assam oil wells for six days, the Oil India Limited has decided to bring in experts from abroad to help manage the crisis. A Crisis Management Team formed by the public sector unit has been working to plug the leak, which has forced nearly 2,500 people to live in relief camps. Water is being continuously pumped into the valve of the well head to cool the gas, the company said in a statement on Monday.

The well exploded in a fountain of crude oil after pressure control systems failed last week. The continuous release of gas threatens sensitive wetlands, a national park and endangered species in the area, sources said.

"OIL has contacted Global Expert to control the blowout. We have received offers with action plan and timeline from three global experts (Boots and Coots, Alert and Wild Well Control) in well control operation- they are being examined and under consideration," the statement said.

The National Disaster Response Force or NDRF has been called in to help in relief camp operations for the residents of village Baghjan in Tinsukia district, some 450 km from Guwahati. Those evacuated have been living in three relief camps.

Senior company officials on Monday held a meeting with Tinsukia district collector Bhaskar Pegu on the well blowout and evacuation of local population. The company has formed a five-member panel to probe if human error caused the leak.

"OIL has already given show cause to M/s John Energy Pvt Limited and actions will also be initiated on employees of OIL if there is any prima facie evidence of human error for which a five-member inquiry committee has been formed," the statement added.

The residents of the village had alleged that they saw carcasses of endangered Gangetic Dolphins in Maguribeel wetlands. They have been experiencing a heavy gas and oil smell at Dibru Saikhowa National Park, known for the migratory birds and feral horses.

The state forest department had issued a notice to the company regarding this.

"We issued notice to Oil India yesterday seeking a detailed report of the extent of damage to the environment through our Tinsukia DFO (divisional forest officer). We have asked them to give details of the area under damage and composition of the gas and liquid," PTI quoted an unnamed official as saying.