ONGC gas well leak affects four villages

An unused natural gas well

Agartala, June 18 : A major gas leak from one of ONGC’s unused natural gas wells at Konaban area of West Tripura since Wednesday has emerged as a major hazard for residents of four villages around the site.
The corporation’s corporate communications chief, Anil Raja, today said though a team of engineers and gas safety specialists had arrived yesterday from Ahmedabad to plug the leak and douse the fire, they had not been successful yet.
Raja said the team was trying hard to douse the fire and control the leakage with chemical mud and water using a machine brought from Sivasagar in Assam.
“If the leakage and fire are not brought under control at the earliest, a high level crisis-management team of ONGC will arrive here,” he said, adding that the loss for ONGC would be huge, though it had not been quantified yet.
He said over the past two decades, ONGC had drilled 19 wells in the Konaban area for supplying natural gas to nearby thermal power plants at Rookhia and Barmura in Sadar subdivision.
“Seven of the wells were capped while others are being still used to supply gas to the power plants. But on Wednesday, the capped well number six had erupted, leading to leakage of a large quantity natural gas, creating panic in the area.
“According to our rule, abandoned wells are to be kept under routine watch and well number six erupted suddenly, possibly because of massive pressure from within,” he said.
“An investigation will be carried out into the incident and then everything will be clear. The corporation’s headquarters in Dehradun is being kept up-to-date with what is happening here,” Raja said.
Right after the eruption, ONGC had informed the state government and put the residents of four peripheral villages — Harihardola, Shakuntala, Sitakhola and Gopal Nagar — on high alert.
The 3,475 residents of the villages have stopped cooking, because lighting a fire could lead to a major disaster with all the natural gas floating around. They have been surviving on dry food and milk.
The sub-divisional officer, Bishalgarh, Prashant Kumar, who had rushed to the spot immediately after being informed about the leakage on Wednesday, said four companies of Tripura State Rifles (TSR) had been stationed in and around the site and in the villages.
“We have kept fire brigade vehicles, ambulances and a team of doctors on standby to deal with emergencies. The real problem was created after the well caught fire yesterday. There was no fire on Wednesday,” Kumar said.
He added that unless the fire and leakage was brought under control, all residents of the four villages would have to be evacuated to safer locations.