Clo­sure no­tice to gas field over blowout

Hindustan Times (Jalandhar) - - HTWORLD - Jayashree Nandi let­ters@hin­dus­tan­times.

NEW DELHI: The As­sam Pol­lu­tion Con­trol Board is­sued a clo­sure no­tice on Fri­day to the Bagh­jan oil­field of Oil In­dia Lim­ited (OIL) on the grounds that the com­pany has been op­er­at­ing it with­out prior per­mis­sions, in­clud­ing the key “con­sent to es­tab­lish” and “con­sent to op­er­ate” clear­ances.

Any in­dus­try likely to dis­charge ef­flu­ents or emit pol­lu­tants is sup­posed to get th­ese per­mis­sions from the state pol­lu­tion con­trol boards un­der the Wa­ter (Preven­tion & Con­trol of Pol­lu­tion) Act, 1974 and the Air (Preven­tion & Con­trol of Pol­lu­tion) Act, 1981.

A blowout that be­gan in the oil­field on May 27 led to the un­con­trol­lable flow of oil from gas well 5 -- caus­ing ex­ten­sive dam­age to bio­di­ver­sity and wildlife the re­gion, ac­cord­ing to a pre­lim­i­nary re­port on the en­vi­ron­men­tal dam­age caused by the in­ci­dent. The wildlife in the re­gion in­cludes, among sev­eral other species, the en­dan­gered hoolock gib­bons and the Gangetic dol­phins. There are 17 oil wells and five gas wells in the Bagh­jan oil field, Bagh­jan oil field gen­er­ates 1,200 kilo­litres of crude oil per day and 1.5 to 2 mil­lion met­ric stan­dard cu­bic me­tres per day of gas. OIL sup­plies crude oil to sev­eral re­finer­ies in­clud­ing Dig­boi re­finer­ies in As­sam, it also sup­plies gas to var­i­ous power com­pa­nies and fer­tiliser com­pa­nies and 400+ tea es­tates ac­cord­ing to OIL.

The let­ter is­sued to OIL — a copy has been re­viewed by HT — states that the Bagh­jan oil­field in

As­sam’s Tin­sukia district is lo­cated at a dis­tance of only 500 me­tres from the Maguri-Mo­ta­pung wet­land, which is a part of the eco-sen­si­tive zone of Di­bru Saikhowa Na­tional Park, which is “se­verely af­fected” by OIL’s “neg­li­gence”.

Ac­cord­ing to the let­ter, OIL was re­quired to take ad­e­quate mea­sures to prevent spillage of haz­ardous waste into wa­ter bod­ies through des­ig­nated drains and treat­ment fa­cil­i­ties. The en­vi­ron­ment clear­ance granted to OIL was also on the con­di­tion that the com­pany in­stall a blowout preven­tion sys­tem to avoid ac­ci­dents dur­ing drilling.

“But you have failed to do it,” the let­ter stated.

“It is ob­served that you have been op­er­at­ing your pro­duc­tion as well as drilling in­stal­la­tions with­out be­ing equipped with proper safety and pre­cau­tion­ary mea­sures for which ma­jor ac­ci­dents are oc­curred at the drilling sites,” the let­ter added.

The board has sweep­ing pow­ers over projects in eco-sen­si­tive zones un­der Sec­tion 5 of the En­vi­ron­ment Pro­tec­tion Act, 1986.

“We have or­dered com­plete clo­sure be­cause of their neg­li­gent be­hav­iour,” DN Das, mem­ber sec­re­tary of the As­sam Pol­lu­tion Con­trol Board, said.

An OIL spokesper­son said the con­sent was al­ready sought. “We have ap­plied for con­sent to op­er­ate a num­ber of times, and even de­posited fee for it with the pol­lu­tion con­trol board. The con­sent has come through for cer­tain in­stal­la­tions, rest are pend­ing,” said Tridiv Hazarika.

“The PCB had mailed us on June 11 ask­ing us for de­tails of var­i­ous per­mis­sions and data. We had asked for time to re­ply. It’s a 15-year-old oil field. We man­aged to send them a re­sponse on June 18 but got a clo­sure no­tice on June 19. It’s not tech­ni­cally pos­si­ble to close the wells im­me­di­ately as it will af­fect reser­voirs. Many in­dus­tries are de­pen­dent on OIL for their op­er­a­tions. We are also con­sid­er­ing a le­gal op­tion for a stay on the clo­sure or­der,” the spokesper­son added.

Later on Sun­day, OIL is­sued a press re­lease say­ing it in­tends to file a writ pe­ti­tion be­fore the Gauhati high court chal­leng­ing the pol­lu­tion con­trol board or­der. It also said that an en­vi­ron­ment im­pact as­sess­ment study of the blowout and fire was pend­ing.

A pre­lim­i­nary re­port on the dam­age, by Wildlife In­sti­tute of In­dia (WII) found that oil had leaked into the prin­ci­pal stream of Lo­hit river, pol­lut­ing the wa­ter and the ad­join­ing Maguri-Mo­ta­pung wet­land. “The toxic fumes and oil coat­ing have uni­ver­sally af­fected flora and fauna. The con­tam­i­nants and oil are con­tin­u­ing to be re­leased and im­me­di­ate steps are needed to con­tain this spill over. The tox­ins re­leased are known to have long-term per­sis­tence in soils and sed­i­ments,” the re­port said.

THE BLOWOUT CAUSED EX­TEN­SIVE DAM­AGE TO BIO­DI­VER­SITY AND WILDLIFE THE RE­GION, AC­CORD­ING TO WII’S PRE­LIM­I­NARY RE­PORT

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