Biodiversity & Environment
Assam Gas Leak
- 09 Jun 2020
- 5 min read
Why in News
Recently, a gas leak has occurred at Baghjan well in Tinsukia district of Assam following a blowout.
- The Baghjan well is a purely gas-producing well in Tinsukia district, and is at an aerial distance of 900 metres from the Dibru-Saikhowa National Park.
- It has been drilled by Oil India Limited (OIL) since 2006.
- Natural gas is a mix of propane, methane, propylene and other gases.
- Gas Leak:
- The gas well at Baghjan was under maintenance, for which it was temporarily shut. The Blowout Preventer (BOP) was also removed.
- However, the gas started to ooze out of the well during the maintenance.The reason behind the blowout (a sudden/uncontrolled release of gas/oil) is not clear.
- Possible Reasons:
- It may have occurred due to lack of attention, poor workmanship, bad maintenance, old age, sabotage to morpho-tectonic factors.
- Sometimes, the disturbance of pressure balance in a well may also lead to sudden blowouts.
- Steps Taken: The authorities have built a temporary water reservoir through pipelines from the Dangori river nearby the well to control the blowout.
- To control a blowout, a huge quantity of water is required so that the gas does not catch fire.
- The control of a blowout depends on two things: the size of the reservoir and the pressure at which the gas is flowing out. Many blowouts also automatically collapse on their own.
- Challenges: The gas leak at the Baghjan is still not under control and it is continuously leaking.
- The limited space and non-availability of open space above the well head poses a huge challenge in placement of BOP.
- The BOP placement involves a huge risk since Baghjan is a gas well and runs the risk of catching fire at any point.
- The gas is flowing with the wind in the radius of up to 5 km and condensate (the residue from gas) is falling on bamboo, tea gardens, banana trees, betel nut trees among others.
- While the well is outside the Eco Sensitive Zone of the park, there are reports that the condensate is falling into Dibru-Saikhowa National Park and Maguri-Motapung wetland too.
- The gas leak has also caused deaths of Gangetic dolphins, and a variety of fish. The number of birds have also decreased because they have flown away.
- Assessment of the Impact: To safeguard the environment, OIL has engaged a National Accreditation Board for Education and Training (NABET) accredited consultant to carry out an Environment Impact Assessment study to assess the effects of blowout on terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems and to work on a Socio-Economic Impact Assessment.
- NABET is a constituent Board of Quality Council of India.
- It offers accreditation to educational organisations, vocational training organizations and skill certification bodies.
Dibru-Saikhowa National Park
- Dibru-Saikhowa is a National Park as well as a Biosphere Reserve situated in the south bank of the river Brahmaputra in Assam.
- It is one of the 19 biodiversity hotspots in the world.
- The forest type of Dibru-Saikhowa comprises semi-evergreen forests, deciduous forests, littoral and swamp forests and patches of wet evergreen forests.
- It is the largest swamp forest in north-eastern India.
- It is an identified Important Bird Area (IBA) notified by the Bombay Natural History Society. It is most famous for the rare white-winged wood ducks as well as feral horses.
- Maguri Motapung Beel is less than 10 km from Dibru-Saikhowa National Park and part of the Dibru-Saikhowa Biosphere Reserve.
- The wetland derives its name from “Magur”, the local word for the catfish ‘Clarius batrachus’.
- It is an Important Bird Area notified by the Bombay Natural History Society.