Oil Ministry sets up high-level panel to inquire into Assam oil well disaster

The cause of the fire has not been ascertained till now.

The Petroleum Ministry has constituted a three-member high-level committee to inquire into the blowout at an Oil India Ltd well in Assam and the subsequent fire that killed two firefighters and injured at least one.

The panel will be headed by SCL Das, Director General of Directorate General of Hydrocarbons (DGH), a ministry order said.

It will “identify the lapses in following laid down protocols and procedures which led to the incident,” the order said.

The committee will also recommend short and long-term measures to prevent the recurrence of such incidents including identifying any gaps in laid down standard operating procedure.

The panel, which also includes former ONGC chairman B C Bora and former ONGC director T K Sengupta, will submit its report within one month, the order said.

“Natural gas mixed with condensate started flowing uncontrollably from one of the wells of Oil India Ltd (OIL) in Baghjan fields in Tinsukia district of Assam on May 27, 2020 leading to a blowout. The well caught fire on June 8, 2020,” it said.

OIL on Thursday said the fire has since been contained to the well and it is trying to put out the fire.

Except at the well plinth area, the fire around the site has been extinguished. However, the burning of gas at the well mouth will continue till the well is capped.

The ministry said it “is fully cognisant to the gravity of the situation developing in Baghjan and is committed for the safety and well-being of people in Assam.”

On June 10, the ministry had stated that the well was planned to be capped by following the advice of experts and taking all safety precautions.

“While the clearing operations were going on at the well site, the well caught fire on June 9, 2020, around noontime, spreading the fire in an area of about 200 metres around the well site,” it had said in a statement.

The cause of the fire has not been ascertained till now.

The fire in around 200 metres periphery had completely burnt about 15 houses, while another 10-15 houses have been partially affected.

According to OIL, three firemen, two from OIL India, and one from ONGC jumped in a water pool nearby when the fire broke out. While ONGC fireman got injured, two OIL India firemen could not save themselves. Their bodies have been retrieved.

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