Baghjan blowout, fire could have been prevented: Report

There were deviations from standard operating procedure and deficiency in understanding gravity of operations, the report submitted to the NGT said

By DTE Staff
Published: Tuesday 28 July 2020

An oil well blowout on May 27, 2020 in Baghjan in Assam’s Tinsukia district and a subsequent fire June 9 at an Oil India Limited (OIL) well could have been prevented, stated a preliminary report submitted to the National Green Tribunal July 24.

A committee of experts headed by Justice Brojendra Prasad Katakey — which submitted the report — was constituted by the NGT to look into the blowout and explosion.

There was a deficiency in understanding the gravity of a critical operation like removal of blowout preventer without having a confirmed and tested secondary safety barrier, the report said.

There was also a lack of proper planning of critical operations and a clear mismatch between planning and its execution at site and deviations from the standard operating procedure.

On the day of the blowout of the Baghjan-5 well and subsequent explosion, OIL did not have the mandatory Consent to Establish and Consent to Operate under:

  • Section 25 and 26 of the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974
  • Section 21 of the Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981
  • Authorisation Rule 6 of the Hazardous Waste (Management, Handling and Transboundary Movement) Rules, 2016

The report said oil spillage severely affected a radius of six kilometres from the Baghjan oil well. Within a two-km radius, phytoplankton and zooplankton were directly affected, while there were coatings of oil film on plant life, water bodies, agricultural fields, gardens and man-made structures.

The explosion and subsequent fire which broke out led to immense damage to the local population and their homes, apart from small tea gardens that were completely burnt down.

Reports indicated the grasslands on the south western and western side were impacted by the fire and during the field survey conducted by the experts, it was observed that bird density and diversity within a one-km radius reduced substantially.

A sound emanating from the well after the explosion could be heard from a distance of 12 km from the site of the explosion, the report said.

A Wildlife Institute of India (WII) report on the oil well blowout at Baghjan and the resultant oil spill on the surrounding landscape was also cited by the report.

Tests and evaluations carried out by WII said high levels of carcinogenic Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAH) pollutants were released into the ecosystem and would remain in the system for a long time.

The PAH pollutants that were found in the ecosystem surrounding the site of incident would eventually percolate into the ground and even contaminate ground water.

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