Sonowal unhappy on PCB’s closure notice on OIL

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Tea industries, HFCL, Gas cracker to be seriously affected

Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal today expressed strong reservation over the Pollution Control Board(PCB)’s notice to the Oil  India  Limited (OIL) for the closure  of Baghjan oil fields as he pointed out that life of lakhs of people would seriously be disturbed by this act.

Addressing a press conference at Dibrugarh, he said that Hindustan Fertilizer Corporation Limited,  Gas Cracker Limited and all the tea gardens of Upper Assam beside every major factories of Upper Assam was directly dependent on the natural gas produced by OIL.

Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal addressing a news conference at Dibrugarh

He said that OIL would reply to the PCB notice but the Government would also take a fair decision considering the fate of the entire industries of upper Assam.  Mr Sonowal was visibly unhappy with the PCB’s closure notice to the OIL.

Gas well closure may trigger blow outs

Oil India Limited (OIL) has said the June 19 order from the Pollution Control Board Assam (PCBA) to shut down all crude oil and gas wells in the Baghjan area may lead to more blowouts and damage the ecology beyond repair.

The exploration major also said the order was irrational since they had replied to the PCBA show-cause notice on the very day the closure order was served.

OIL has 22 wells in the Baghjan oilfield around Well Number 5 that burst into flames on June 9 after a blowout — uncontrolled escape of crude oil or natural gas at great speed — on May 27. Operations to cap the blaze over the wellhead and capping the blowout are still continuing.

 “We received the show-cause notice from the PCBA member-secretary on June 11 seeking a reply and data going back to 15 years. We replied seeking a week’s time as these data needed to be collated and most officials were engaged in the Baghjan operation,” OIL’s spokesperson Tridip Hazarika said.

“On June 17, our executive director handling safety and environment called up PCBA chairperson Y. Suryanarayana seeking two more days. He sought a mail, which we gave but on June 18 evening he said there will be no extension. We were ready with our reply anyway and mailed it before he ordered us to shut down operations in the Baghjan area,” he added.

Environmentalists have questioned the PCBA’s “waking up from slumber” when the OIL has been function in the area for almost two decades. The chairperson, however, said the data sought pertains to the 2019-2020 fiscal.

 “We have requested PCBA to revoke the closure order. If nothing comes by Monday morning, our legal team will approach the Gauhati High Court for legal intervention,” Mr. Hazarika said.

OIL officials said that from the closure order it was evident that PCBA was not aware of how the oil industry functions.

“Wells cannot be shut overnight because they are not like water taps that be closed whenever one wants to. Closure is a complicated process that can take months. Besides, shutting down all the wells will worsen the situation at the blowout well because of geological factors,” a senior executive explained.

Sudden shutdown, exploration experts said, could lead to “blowout after blowout” of the other wells as closure valves cannot withstand the upward pressure from the crude oil or natural gas for long. It will lead to a disaster that the area might not recover from, they said.

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