Navi Mumbai: Industrial disasters are happening in Maharashtra with an uncanny regularity. In the latest such incident, four persons were killed and three seriously injured when a fire broke out at an oil and gas processing plant of the ONGC at Uran in Navi Mumbai.
Preliminary findings indicate that there was a leak of the highly inflammable naphtha -- a liquid hydrocarbon mixture – from one of the pipes in plant No 1.
Sources in the Maharashtra police headquarters cited eyewitnesses as claiming that the leak had occurred at around 7 am due to the loosening of a valve in the pipeline. The lethal gas spread in no time on the surface of a nullah. Though the source of ignition is not known, it was possibly caused by a spark from an electrical circuit. The in-house fire unit of the plant and the local fire brigade would be conducting a detailed inquiry to establish the exact cause of the fire.
Three CISF jawans and an ONGC staffer who rushed to shut the valve were caught in the blaze that ensued. Officials said the three injured are also CISF personnel.
Thankfully, oil production was not impacted by the fire but ONGC had to perforce divert natural gas produced from fields in the Arabian Sea to a similar processing facility at Hazira in Gujarat.
Oil Minister Dharmendra Pradhan said in New Delhi that things were under control. The Uran facility of the ONGC receives and processes about 12.5 million tonnes per annum of crude oil and about 11.5 million standard cubic meters per day of natural gas. Following the blaze, thick smoke engulfed the area; the villagers staying in the plant's vicinity had to be reassured that things were under control.
By Debasish Panigrahi