Fresh blowout at Tengratila, flames leap up to 150 ft.

A huge fire broke out in a relief well drilled under the supervision of Canadian company Niko Resources (Bangladesh) Ltd at the ill-fated Tengratila gas field in Doarabazar upazila of Sunamganj again early yesterday, only five months after a severe blowout had almost destroyed the gas field on January 7.It occurred at around 3:00am when drilling of
the relief well at the Chhatak gas field was going on. The drilling began on June 1 to kill the main Chhatak Well No. 2 with mud and seal it off with cement.
Fresh blowout at Tengratila, flames leap up to 150 ft
A huge blowout blazes the Tengratila gas field yesterday, only five months after the last January’s disastrous fire there. PHOTO: STAR

For the drilling of the relief well, Niko engaged Bob Grace of GSM Enterprises, Inc from Texas, USA, as the lead advisor and project in-charge. It hoped to finish drilling up to 466 metres in 6-8 weeks. Yesterday’s explosion took place at a depth of 435 metres, sources informed.

The Canadian company in a press release yesterday attributed the cause of the disaster to “a sudden uncontrolled mud loss in the relief well” causing “gas with very high flow rate” coming up through the well to the surface.

Signed by Niko President Qasim Sharif, the press release said, “We did not have any option but to flow and burn off this gas at the surface…from top of the well through the rig. The rig eventually caught fire….”

Advisor to the energy ministry Mahmudur Rahman yesterday told newsmen that the government will form a probe committee within a day or two to see whether there were any technical flaws on Niko’s part.

“Bapex [Bangladesh Petroleum Exploration Corporation] also cannot shrug off its responsibilities. There were no engineers from Bapex present at the site yesterday (Thursday),” he said.

On the question of realising compensation, Mahmudur said it might be adjusted against the price the government will have to pay Niko for buying gas from the Feni gas field.

Sources said the drillers had been experiencing heavy pressure on the well head for the last two days and that they could not properly monitor the well’s behaviour.

At about 3:00am, the drillers set fire to the flare line to divert the gas pressure. After some time, however, gas started spreading around and the situation went out of control as the relief well caught fire with a sudden explosion.

By 6:30am the fire almost died out only to begin at about 1:10pm shooting flames up to 150 feet, local officials informed. Gas and sand were coming out of the well with terrible gurgling sounds, locals informed.

Panicky people from the nearby villages as well as adjacent Tengratila bazar left their homes to safer places. Police and Bangladesh Rifles (BDR) personnel from the nearby border outposts were deployed around the gas field location.

Asked about the cause of the blowout, a Niko official said it might have taken place due to heavy pressure of gas in the relief well. The drillers most probably could not imagine the high pressure of the gas, he said, adding, “The lower soil structure had gone too loose.”

The Niko is planning its next steps “to contain this situation in consultation with Bapex, Petrobangla, and the Government of Bangladesh and we expect to present our solution for the approval to the authorities very shortly,” said the Niko press release.

Prior to the start of drilling the relief well, as many as 77 families from the gas field area had been asked to leave their homesteads for safety reasons. Moreover, the Niko marked 37 shallow tube wells in the adjacent areas and asked the villagers not to use them as gas was coming out from the tube wells, albeit without any pressure.

A high level committee headed by the additional secretary of the Ministry of Energy & Mineral Resources probed the January 7 blowout. It reported flaws in the drilling plan and serious negligence on the part of the Niko as well as Bapex, the state run company and a partner in the venture.

The energy secretary, Bapex officials, Niko chairman and other officials were on their way to the Tengratila gas field location, an official in the Sunamganj district administration said.
The Daily Star