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    Many Unanswered Questions Plumed in the Smoke of Baghjan Blaze

    Oil and Petroleum Ministry needs to keenly observe the nexus of corrupt oil officials and insurance companies, where there is suspicion

    Neither human civilization nor extreme scientific progress can defeat the fury of nature. The incompetence of the Oil giant of India – Oil India Limited nakedly exposed as it could not douse the flare of condensate well of Baghjan, of Tinsukia District Assam, over a period of 120 days, means more than three long months, that too in the rainiest season of the state.

    Interestingly not only OIL authority but also media, social organizations, politicians all fronts are now silent showing no concern to the burning of priceless national assets, as they already took the mileage of social and political exposure in the bursting flicker of condensate fire.   

    Adding fuel to the fire of Baghjan, authorities of even now keeping their lip tight about the fate of Baghjan Well No 5and never ever tried to disclose the real loss of value of condensate plumes into smoke in the open sky. Just after one month of the onset of the fire, OIL authority accessed the value of loss of condensate is worth of Rupees 250 crores, but no disclosure of after the end of the complete three months. No doubt the loss amount will escalate several times than of general assumption in the coming days.

    However, the damage caused to the surrounding ecology and environment is beyond the accounts of any numerical to value. 

    Today is the 120 day of the beginning of Baghjan fire tight-lipped Oil India Limited now remains keeping their lip tight about the loss they incurred during the ongoing inferno.

    Upper Assam had witnessed lots of such oil fire in the last few decades, both in OIL and ONGC well rig as well as in OCS. The source of fire varies from place to place sometimes oil, and sometimes maybe case or condensate, however, the magnitude of the type of damage caused to the surrounding ecology is always the same.

    It is observed that even going through many worst disasters of fire in the past OIL in no way is learned to prevent such accidental fire, still, they wait for the performance of foreign experts in order to extinguish the catastrophic fire.    

    More, unfortunately, there is no competent set up in the Ministry of Oil and petroleum technology, to book irresponsible OIL (Oil India Limited) authority for causing mass public damage as well as of national property.

    In major cases, Green Tribunal slaps huge financial compensation to OIL (Oil India Limited) authority in order to console the front line victims, but such of penalty cannot touch the hard skin of errant oil officials.

    In many high profile cases, Oil and Petroleum Ministry needs to keenly observe the nexus of corrupt oil officials and insurance companies, where there is a smoke of suspicion.

    Same in the Baghjan case. In the coming days, OIL authorities will come up with so many technical defence to cover up consecutive failure, but they must answer few questions to the people of Assam, as it is a loss of national property, with utter human negligence.  

    While interacted with global OIL expert the regarding the fire broke out at Baghjan, after a thorough study it was plainly alleged that this fire was caused by a man-made scientific error, not because of technical error, that had caused an immeasurable to the natural storehouse of India’s huge hydrocarbon assets.

    Therefore Oil India Limited is accountable to the people of the nation, to explain the real cause and volume of national loss.

    Will authority of Oil India Limited answer following queries for the knowledge of the people of Assam

    1.            Volume of condensate stored under the Baghjan Field

    2.            Amount of condensate exhausted from the first day of fire in Baghjan Well No 5

    3.            How much condensate curled in to smoke after different explosion? 

    4.            What was the rate of spewing of condensate per day per hour?

    5.            What is the price of condensate in the international markets?

    6.            What was the value of condensate exhausted per day in terms of rupees?

    7.            How shall oil authority will evaluate the loss of biodiversity resources that are damaged in the surrounding Dibru Saikhowa area?

    8.            The loss of public property living nearby areas over the ground surface is not included in this long list of loss of assets. Rather this figure will be surely higher than the loss of natural hydrocarbons resources as it had already damaged the surrounding ecosystem in the periphery of Dibru Saikhowa Bio Diversity Park and its surrounding inhabitant area.

    However, in a prima facie assessment of loss OIL sources says that it has suffered a loss of production of 638 tons of crude oil and .046 million standard cubic meter of natural gas mixed condensate per day. Just imagine the loss in 118 days.

     Analyzing the possible causes of the mishap the Oil expert further elaborated that it was not the technical snag rather it is a scientific error caused by the utter negligence of the oil employee and its misrepresentation of work.

    Can OIL (Oil India Limited) authority answer following questions:-

    1.            Why OIL authority tried to hide the actual fact Baghjan Well No 5 is not of condensate, rather saying it to be natural gas.

    2.            In the Annual Report, OIL authorities mentioned that Baghjan Well No 5 is of Condensate, but in Well Report it was never mentioned that it was of Condensate

    3.            Who are the OIL officials responsible for preparing the Well Report, where it was never mentioned that is of condensate well?

    4.               Whether OIL authority will be able to compel John Energy to owe the responsibility of disaster of well No 5.

    5.            Exploration at Baghjan Well was started in the year 2006. The first exploration started digging the well up to 3.8 KM depth from the ground surface. Production of condensate was 80,000 square meters per day. At that time the hydrostatic pressure gradient was 2700 PSI/ft. [pound per square inch per foot]. However in course of time in order to earn 90,000 square meter condensate per day, the magnitude hydrostatic pressure gradient is increased up to 4200 PSI on the surface and 5200 PSI (Pressure Per Square Inch) on reserve, at the time of the blast. Was it technically justified?

    6.            Whereas much more oil well under ONGC at Sonari and Galeki at Sivasagar district in Assam functioning at a pressure gradient of 8000 PSI smoothly. How it was possible and why there was a failure at Baghjan.

    7.              The hydrostatic pressure is generally of two types. One is Sub Hydrostatic Pressure and another is Ultra Hydro Static Pressure. In simple words hydrostatic pressure is pressure in a given depth, the pressure exerted per unit area by a column of freshwater sea level to a given depth. The normal hydrostatic pressure gradient for freshwater is 0.433 pounds per square inch per foot. In the sub hydrostatic pressure gradient, the hydrocarbon does not flow automatically. Whereas in Ultra Hydro Static pressure gradient the hydrocarbon flows automatically due to the pressure of water.

    Since Baghjan is known for its Ultra Hydro Static Character, then why OIL authority did not warned M/s John Energy for additional precaution.

    8.            Did OIL authority warned  M/s John Energy, to go for extra additional precaution since Baghjan 5 is in nature of Ultra Hydro Static Character that too with Condensate, which is much more inflammable, combustible and explosive than gasoline and normal petrol?

    9.            Who will take responsibility if there is a miscalculation of the gradient of ultra hydro static pressure?

    10.          In order to kill the well, M/s John Energy used a cement plug but did not cap with a mechanical plug (bridge plug). According to international rules if the well is in the character of Ultra Hydro Static Pressure gradient, then the mechanical plug must be followed by a cementing plug or only with a mechanical plug.

    Why these norms were never followed in case of killing the Baghjan Well?

    11.          The whole catastrophe begins following the removal of Blowout Preventer. Whether necessary additional scientific preventive measures were taken at the time of removal, it was highly inflammable condensate?

    12.            What was the reason behind, as soon as the fire broke out, a senior retired OIL executive who was happened to be a former General Manager (Exploration) hatched a conspiracy to mislead, saying that there was no NMR (Nuclear Magnetic Resonance) test done on the Baghjan 5 (Baghjan Oil Field) to ascertain the presence of condensate in the said oil field?

    13.            What was the reason behind, where the scientist belongs to a very reputed international organization Sl was threatened, years back in a night at Delhi Hotel to withdraw his technical finding, where NMR report clearly indicates that natural gas mixed condensate in Well No 5 of Baghjan Oil field? What was the motive of those set of OIL officials?     

    14.          What was a conspiracy of the top OIL officials connected with the exploration department, dared to renounce the “NMR technical report” prepared by the internationally acclaimed organization “HALLIBURTON” – asserting that Baghjan 5 is stored with Gas Condensate?

    15.          Was it the reason that the NMR petrophysical analysis on Baghjan 5 and the following report was prepared by an internationally acclaimed Assamese Petro physicist, so it was not acceptable to top OIL officials? Whether the Baghjan 5 NMR report is allowed to qualify in OIL officials lobby politics? 

    16.          What were the international success stories of Alert Disaster Management, for engaging them for dousing the fire of natural gas mixed condensate? What were the credentials to qualify them for controlling the Baghjan inferno?

    17.            Oil Engineering convinced that it is impossible to repair of devastated “casing conductor” and “casing sub”, of a burning well while the pressure gradient of well in fire is of Ultra Hydrostatic in nature. And the possibility is too less and practically impossible if fire blast occurs due to the uncontrolled flow of natural gas mixed condensate. Then why OIL authority planned for repairing the casing sub, while it has already proved impossible. 

    18.          Who will shoulder the future security of the well, if killing fluid is sprayed to suppress the fire and flow of condensate is capped with a cover of cement plate form in a place like an earthquake zone 5, where there is every possibility for sudden rapture due to seismic jerk. 

    19.          What is the technical problem at Baghjan, so that OIL has not yet planned for an alternative “relief well” to sealing the burning well solid cement plug?

    20.          Assam Industry & Commerce Minister Chandra Mohan Patowary, visited the Baghjan inferno site, for cracking jokes, saying that such fire takes place in many oil well across the world, and there is nothing to take seriously about the fire and its environmental damage. However, in the last assembly session he informed that after the failure of Alert Disaster Management, alternative technology and equipment will be brought to douse the fire. The role and seriousness of the Assam Government is sounding to be more casual while Assam Pollution Control Board notified OIL authority to close down and drill operations of all installation of Baghjan Oil fields on 21st June and in the very next day on 22nd June, Closure Notice is mysteriously lifted after talking with OIL CMD. 

    21.          Natural gas mixed Condensate is a highly combustible hydrocarbon like gasoline, and its inflammable temperature is more susceptible to catch fire than normal petrol.  OIL officials were much aware that Baghjan Well No 5 is the storehouse of condensate in the state of ultra hydrostatic gradient. Now questions come how the Pollution Control Board of Assam can give permission to OIL authority to explore condensate near Eco-sensitive zone like Dibru Saikhowa Bio-Diversity area?

    22.          How Oil India Limited had managed to obtain environmental clearance to expand its hydrocarbon testing and drilling activities, without facing public hearing?

    23.          Where is the “Detailed Environmental Impact Assessment Plan” regarding drilling and exploration at Bhghjan, and why the report is silent about the death of endangered “Ganges River Dolphin”, “Parti-colored Squirrel”. The report is silent about the fate of wild water buffalo as their habitat grassland is already burnt. Moreover, grasslands of “Black-breasted Parrotbill”, “Jerdon’s Babbler”, “Swamp Prinia” and “Swamp Francolin” are reduced to ash because of fire due to the speedy spewing of condensate from drilling mouth of the rig well. “No amount of compensation can recover the loss of environment in such eco-sensitive surrounding areas, because of the indifferent attitudes of OIL official,” said noted environmentalist Dr. Anwaruddin Choudhury.

    24.          Director-General of Mine’s Safety needs to submit report aftermath of such a disaster, connected with the exploration of mining resources. Where is the report of the Director-General of Mine’s safety regarding the Baghjan inferno?

    25.          Senior Journalist and noted environmentalist Apuba Ballav Goswami filed an FIR at Baghjan Police station of Tinsukia district, against OIL officials responsible for the negligence of duty alleging that the Oil India officials had not taken any proper scientific precaution at the time of installation of  Blow Out Preventer at drilling well of Baghjan 5. However no arrest has been made following the investigation of FIR, rather in return, the senior journalist was compelled to resign from his media organization where Mr. Goswami served as a senior journalist for more than 20 years without any intervention? This reputed media house of Upper Assam, published a news item, in their own newspaper, clarifying that they were not connected with FIR and its content.      

    The crow flight distance of firing razing well head of Baghjan 5 and Dibru Saikhowa National Park is only 900 meters. And fire red sky of this inferno can easily be seen from both ends of Bogibeel Bridge of Dhemaji & Dibrugarh district. 

    26.          Noted literary person, Juri Borah Borgohain in her assessment, says that water along with killing fluid hosed from high capacity water pump upon the face of well mouth is flowing to the nearby natural water reservoir and Dangori River. Chemical dissolved water used for dousing fire is now poisoning the whole surrounding areas annihilating the aquatic lives. She says that due to fir at Oil well at Dikom of Dibrugarh District in 2005, the surrounding harvesting filed has totally lost its soil fertility. All great promise of OIL authority for reclamation of ground went in to wild.  Since National Green Tribunal, is monitoring the whole situation, it is expected that NGT will set exemplary precedent giving a stern message to the irresponsible and errant OIL officials, so that Baghjan –  Dikom inferno will not break out again to waste the precious natural hydrocarbon assets of Assam.

    The writer is a columnist from Dibrugarh (Assam)

    The views expressed by the writer are personal and may not in any way represent those of TIME8.

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