Indian Oil reported 113 major accidents during fuel transport in 2014-19: CAG

Posing a safety risk, 22% of pipelines in India are operating beyond their economic lifespan of 25 years  

By Seema Prasad
Published: Tuesday 27 December 2022
Indian Oil reported 113 major accidents during fuel transport in 2014-19: CAG
Photo: iStock Photo: iStock

The Indian Oil Corporation Limited reported 113 major road and fire accidents during transportation of fuel from 2014-2019, according to the latest audit report by the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of India. The company also reported 97 minor accidents, the report added. 

Bharat Petroleum Corporation Limited (BPCL) reported 65 major and 431 minor accidents, while Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Limited (HPCL) reported 18 major and 824 minor accidents in the same period, the report added. 

CAG analysed the various accidents reported during transportation of petrol, high-speed diesel and liquified petroleum gas by public sector oil marketing companies through pipelines, rail, road and coast.

Number of accidents

Most of the road accidents at IOCL operations were caused by the movement of packed and bulk LPG, according to the audit. This was due to the negligence of drivers or tank truck crew, overspeeding, night and early morning driving, and lack of training as per Oil Industry Safety Directorate (OISD) requirements, the report mentioned. 

Some of the other reasons for major road accidents at supply locations were unorganised parking, drivers not wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) and unauthorised entry of trucks into the respective plants, the audit said.

CAG noted in the report:

Though the trend of major accidents in BPCL was decreasing over the years, the number of accidents had substantially increased in IOCL. The number of accidents reported by HPCL was significantly less compared to the other two oil marketing companies.

The major fire accidents, the auditor noted, could have been avoided if oil marketing companies strictly followed OISD’s standard operating practices and other internal or external safety norms.

One particular example listed by CAG was the fire incident during a petrol-loading operation at the Bahadurgarh terminal of HPCL. The reason, the audit found, was owing to not promptly changing the insulation joint as recommended by OISD norms. Insulation joints isolate electricity or cathodes between pipelines to prevent corrosion.

In its response in 2020, HPCL said the responsibility of replacing the insulation jointly lay with Indian Railways, as it was not within their jurisdiction. In July 2018, however, the Railways said the insertion of glued joints is feasible and accordingly work was completed in November 2018.

In another incident, there was a fire at the Budge Budge terminal of BPCL. The company went against procedure and opened both sides of the manhole that covers tank-22, which caused an accumulation of motor diesel vapors in the vicinity of the tank, according to CAG.

The Union Ministry of Petroleum & Natural Gas informed in November 2020 that the learnings from this incident was shared and implemented at all other operating locations of BPCL.

The economic lifespan of pipelines, which are the cheapest mode for transportation of petroleum products, is 25 years, according to the Petroleum and Natural Gas Regulatory Board. With maintenance, the period can be extended.

The audit observed that about 22 per cent of pipelines in the country are operating for more than 25 years. Damage to pipelines poses a safety risk but also hampers logistical planning resulting in financial loss, the audit explained.

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