Preparation at the Baghjan well under fire on Sunday

Tinsukia: Public sector giant Oil India Limited’s deadline to begin the operation to cap the well has taken a beating due to floods and is likely to begin on July 11, four days behind schedule.

The gas well number 5 at Baghjan oilfield in Assam’s Tinsukia district caught fire on June 9, 13 days after the blowout happened while the work-over operations were underway on May 27, leaving a mixture of gas and condensate oil to gush out, spreading beyond a km. The fire continues to rage on Sunday.

Also Read: Assam: OIL gains momentum to remove debris at Baghjan fire site

Confirming the development, chairman and managing director of OIL Sushil Chandra Mishra said that the flood triggered by incessant rainfall has hampered the ongoing operations. “As a result, the original deadline to start the capping of the well has been delayed,” he said. “We are hoping to start capping the well operations on July 11 or 12, once the work to remove debris is completed,” added Mishra.

“The rig has to be cut, the carrier has to be separated from the substructure and removed, then the substructure has to be cut and removed to clear the way to well head to begin the operation to cap the well,” an OIL official, having experience of handling blowout well, said. In oil parlance, capping the well operation is a process in which the experts will go close to the well first inspect the condition of the well head visually and then cut the well head and production tubing to install blowout preventer.

“However, it is not easy as it sounds. It involves some complicated steps before the well head is installed,” he added.

The official said, If the top flange is okay, they will put a riser over there to divert the fire upward by 10-12 metres. This will help them to work on well head. They will place the capping unit which consists of the blowout preventer (BOP), spool etc on the top flange on 5.1/2″ casing. “If the top flange is not good, they will do the capping at 9.5/8″ casing if that flange is good. For doing this, they will have to cut the top portion of well head.”

Flood hampering oil operations

OIL spokesperson Tridiv Hazarika said, largely other preparations to give way to capping the well operations are in place, barring a portion of debris that is yet to be removed, including the rig and the pipes. “On Saturday, while placing the firewater monitor, the Bulldozer got stuck near the well head, hindering the progress of debris removal. Hence, the operation was called off by the global experts at 9:15 pm yesterday,” Hazarika said, adding, “One 300 ton crane reached the site today and attempt is being made to pull out the stuck bulldozer.”

Crane crossing bridge at Maguri-Motapung Beel
Crane reaching Baghjan well site

Fire tenders are operating to cool the bulldozer to avoid damage to the same. Hazarika said, there are other big challenges that are being encountered due to flooding. “The firewater monitor and the pipeline laid over the pontoon bridge is no longer useable as the area is inundated. Now, a new alternative is being worked out.”

A portion of the people laid over Pontoon bridge in flood waters

The pipeline is key as it will provide a water umbrella jacket to the experts who will carry operation. A source in OIL said, attempts are being made to create an alternate flexible pipeline underwater so ensure water umbrella jacket is available. “In case, we don’t succeed in this, the operation to cap the well can go ahead but will be further delayed. If the water umbrella jacket is there, experts can work for 30 minutes at a stretch. Otherwise, they have to move out after 10 minutes because of the heat.”

OIL has been facing the fury of natural calamity. Firstly, incessant rainfall, damaged an RCC bridge, blocking the main route of OIL men and material to the well. Later, the entire area was under the deluge, and traffic on the alternate route had to be halted for 2 days due to floodwaters.

Also Read: OIL suspends work at blowout well in Baghjan due to flood

In a press release, OIL said, various study to evaluate Environment Impact Assessment is underway by multiple agencies. It includes air quality, noise level, bioremediation of sludge, and recording of seismic data are underway.

The OIL, meanwhile, continues to book loss due to stoppage and blockades. “There was production loss of 40 MT of crude oil and 0.10MMSCM of natural gas as reported on Saturday, taking the total loss due to blockades and bandhs since May 27 to 9112 MT crude oil, 11.71 MMSCM of natural gas,” the release added.

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