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Negligence behind Oil India’s Baghjan gas blowout, fire: Sources

Twesh Mishra New Delhi | Updated on July 10, 2020 Published on July 10, 2020

It’s been over a month now, but the fire in the Baghjan gas well of Oil India Ltd continues to rage on. While the verdict on its cause is yet to come out, industry insiders believe that it is likely that the incident was a result of human negligence.

An official aware of the developments that preceded the blowout said the well was not fully secured before an attempt was made to move the workover rigs. This could be attributed to negligence by Oil India and contractor company officials present at the site.

“There are currently five committees looking into each aspect of the blowout and subsequent fire-related issues. A final report encapsulating the outcome of all these committees is expected by the end of August,” an Oil India official told BusinessLine.

On May 27, the day of the accident, the company said that at 10:30 AM, the producing well Baghjan 5 at the Baghjan Oilfield in Assam’s Tinsukia district suddenly became very active while workover operations were on. According to officials, this was a high-pressure, high-temperature (HT-HP) well and needed more diligence than was being adopted during workover operations.

“The drilling officer, in-charge of looking after the workover operations and production engineer, in charge of the well, have been suspended pending investigation in the case,” an official said.

 

According to Oil India’s May 27 statement: “The workover operations were being carried out by Chartered Hire Rig owned by John Energy under the supervision of OIL.”

Established in 1987, the Ahmedabad-headquartered John Energy caters to the upstream and midstream oil and gas industry.

In a subsequent statement, Oil India had said that the well was taken for workover operation to plug the existing producing sand. “...While working on the well head as per programme, suddenly the well became active and started displacing profusely. There was uncontrolled flow of natural gas with little amount of condensate leading to blowout,” the statement had said.

Cement plug

“The plan was to move the workover rig to another well after closing Baghjan well 5. The hydrocarbons were trapped between multiple zones at different depths in the same well. Usually, HT-HP wells have two-three zones, but only one zone is worked upon at a time. Since it was felt that production from the lower zone had fallen, a cement plug was put in place and a blowout preventer installed,” the official said.

The blowout preventer is meant to prevent any spillover of oil and gas if the cement plug does not solidify properly. Once the officials were convinced that the cement plug had settled, they removed the blowout preventer to begin the process of moving the workover rig.

“But the cement plug was not given enough time to settle and this is supposed to have led to the sudden well explosion and spill over of crude oil and natural gas. Usually, the cement plug is given between 12 and 48 hours to settle. But in this case, it was not even given 12 hours,” the official alleged.

“Officials were convinced that since there was lesser production from lower zones, there would be no more pressure in the well. This may have encouraged them to take this decision,” the official added. By moving the workover rig to another well faster, Oil India would be saving on daily hiring costs, industry observers assessed.

“All efforts are being made to contain the fire. There have been delays because of rains and other unforeseen situations. It is now expected that the well will be fully controlled by July 15,” the company official said.

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Published on July 10, 2020
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