Topics Covered: Disaster and disaster management.
Assam gas leak
What to study?
For Prelims: Natural gas, location of the leak and areas surrounding.
For Mains: Impact of the leak, reasons behind and ways to address the situation.
Since the morning of May 27, natural gas has been continuously flowing out of a gas well in Assam following a blowout — or a sudden, uncontrolled release of gas/oil.
This happened after the blowout at the Oil India Limited’s (OIL) Baghjan gas well in Assam’s Tinsukia district.
- People from surrounding villages have been evacuated, while a variety of fish and an endangered Gangetic dolphin have died.
The current discharge is at 90,000 SCMD at a pressure of 4,200 PSI, far higher than the normal producing pressure of around 2,700 PSI.
Why do blowouts happen?
The pressure balance in a well may be disturbed leading to ‘kicks’ or changes in pressure. If these are not controlled in time, the ‘kicks’ can turn into a sudden blowout.
There are many possible reasons behind blowouts, “from simple lack of attention, poor workmanship, bad maintenance, old age, sabotage to morpho-tectonic factors”.
Why is it so difficult to control?
The control of a blowout depends on two things: the size of the reservoir and the pressure at which the gas/oil is flowing out.
This reservoir was particularly difficult to control since it was a gas well and ran the risk of catching fire at any point.
What is being done?
While many blowouts automatically collapse on their own, it can take up to months. To control a blowout, the first step is to pump in water, so that the gas does not catch fire.
How serious is the impact to the neighbourhood?
As many as 1,610 families with 2,500-3,000 people have been evacuated to relief camps. There are reports of deaths of a river dolphin, and a variety of fish. While the administration has kept an ambulance with paramedical staff on standby, locals have complained of symptoms such as burning of eyes, headache etc.
Also close is the Maguri-Motapung wetland —an Important Bird Area notified by the Bombay Natural History Society.
Impact on the Dibru-Saikhowa National Park:
It is at an aerial distance of 900 metres from the Dibru-Saikhowa National Park.
The national park houses some of the rare and endangered species of flora and fauna – around 36 species of mammals and nearly 400 species of birds.
About Natural Gas:
Natural gas is the cleanest fossil fuels among the available fossil fuels.
It is used as a feedstock in the manufacture of fertilizers, plastics and other commercially important organic chemicals as well as used as a fuel for electricity generation, heating purpose in industrial and commercial units.
Natural gas is also used for cooking in domestic households and a transportation fuel for vehicles.
Sources: the Hindu.