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Oil Ministry orders inquiry into GAIL pipeline fire

Friday, 27 June 2014 - 12:16pm IST | Agency: PTI

With more than a dozen people killed in a deadly fire at a gas pipeline in Andhra Pradesh, Oil Minister Dharmendra Pradhan today expressed shock at the lack of a statutory body for formulating safety measures for the oil and gas industry.

The Oil Industry Safety Directorate (OISD), under the Petroleum Ministry, carries out safety audits of oil and gas installations, besides formulating and standardising procedures and guidelines for design, operation and maintenance. However, the body lacks statutory authority. 

The then Oil Minister S Jaipal Reddy had in August 2012 suggested giving statutory powers to OISD but the proposal has not materialised so far. "When I came to this Ministry, I was shocked to learn that there is no statutory authority for safety and security. This is a concern," Pradhan said here.  The new government, he said, would work towards giving statutory powers to OISD, which currently is only a recommendatory body. 

The fire at state gas utility GAIL India's pipeline this morning follows a minor fire at HPCL Mittal Energy Ltd's Bhatinda refinery earlier this month. No one was injured in the fire at Bhatinda refinery. Six people had died and 36 were injured after a gas leak at steel maker SAIL's plant in Chhattisgarh on June 12. 

In August last year, a fire at Hindustan Petroleum Corp Ltd's (HPCL) Vizag refinery in Andhra Pradesh had killed 30 persons. A dozen persons were killed in a fire at Indian Oil Corp's (IOC) Jaipur oil depot on December 29, 2009. 

In 2005, 24 persons lost their lives when a giant platform of Oil and Natural Gas Corp (ONGC) in Mumbai High caught fire following a supply vessel colliding with it.  "While we will inquire and go into the root cause of today's fire, we need to seriously look at a statutory body for the oil and gas sector," Oil Minister Dharmendra Pradhan said.

The Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas had in 1986 constituted the Oil Industry Safety Directorate (OISD) to enhance safety in the industry. There are hazards on account of inherent risks associated with the oil and gas industry such as extreme physical conditions in addition to potential fire and explosion from accidental release of flammable hydrocarbons.

Reddy had proposed transferring the work of Petroleum and Explosive Safety Organisation (PESO) to OISD.

At present, PESO comes under the Ministry of Commerce but has high synergy with the oil and gas sector. 

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