International check had cleared AP Gail pipeline for safety

Government sets 2-week deadline for inquiry

International check had cleared AP Gail pipeline for safety

An international quality check done in 2010 had, on safety parameters, cleared the Gail gas pipeline in Andhra Pradesh’s East Godavari district, where a fire killed 17 people on Friday.

“Intelligent pigging” done by T D Williamson of the US had found the pipeline fit for carrying 63.74 kg per cubic metre of gas, a Gail official told Deccan Herald. At present, the pipeline carried only 45 kg per cubic metre of gas. Ruling out allegations of ageing of the Gail pipelines as a possible cause of the fire, the  official said the design life of such gas pipelines was 25 years. With proper maintenance, they could last for 45 to 50 years. The pipeline in question was commissioned in 2003.

The government has set a two-week deadline for an inquiry into the possible lapses that may have triggered a fire in the Gail pipeline. “The government-backed probe panel looking into the Gail pipeline explosion has been asked to give its report in two weeks,” a senior official said. 

Meanwhile, the work for setting up a statutory safety regulator for the oil sector is also being expedited after the incident, which Gail claims is the first involving casualties in the company’s history. Consultations are on with the ministry of labour, department of Industrial Policy and Promotion, and the ministry of chemicals and fertilisers for the proposed oil safety regulator.

“A final decision on the oil safety regulator should come soon. A draft proposal is already in circulation. It is taking sometime as there are many ministries involved in it,” the official said.

The probe committee, headed by petroleum ministry official R K Singh, comprises representatives of Oil Industry Safety Directorate, NDMA and Hindustan Petroleum Corp Ltd (HPCL). 

Gail too has started an internal probe to ascertain the exact cause of the incident and a report on its finding is likely to come out by Monday, a company official said. He said an internal group will also undertake an audit to thoroughly check various pipeline systems and submit a detailed report within a fortnight. According to Gail’s preliminary reports, there was a damage to a 1.5-metre length of the pipeline.

Gail also said that out of all the 30 customers, normal supplies had begun for 29 of them. Only Lanco Power remained shut due to low pressure. Safety confirmation on a parallel line, which is being inspected, would resume gas supply to Lanco Power at the earliest, it said.

Gail in a statement said it will bear the medical expenses of all the injured persons and the best possible medical care will be provided to them. “Gail help desks have been set up at Apollo Hospital & Trust at Kakinada, KIMS Hospital at Amalapuram and Balbolini Hospital at Rajahmundry, where the injured are being treated. All facilitation is being rendered to the family members of the injured persons at these hospitals,” the statement said.

According to an expert in petroleum exploration and former director of Andhra University’s Delta Studies Institute, M Jagannadha Rao, Gail had ignored international safety standards.

“As per international safety norms, when such a gas pipeline is laid through human habitation, gas detectors, an alarm system and a 24-hour helpline should be there. All of these were missing in this case,” he said, adding sub-contracting the laying of pipelines should be avoided as sub-contractors could compromise on quality.

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