Armed attacks hit Oil India production in Assam

Vol 16, PW 5 (20 Sep 12) People & Policy

Assam in India’s northeast is not the easiest place to work and no one knows this better than Oil India.

PETROWATCH learns frequent attacks by separatist groups demanding cash, jobs and cars have hit production at five major oilfields in the state: Makum, Hapjan, Baghjan, Barekuri and Chabua. Oil India sources tell us that between April and August this year the company routinely shut-in production resulting in the loss of approximately 130,000 barrels (17,910 tonnes) of production, equivalent to around $15m in lost revenue.

“Very often they surround our offices,” we hear. “We have to spend the whole day and night in the office without food.

” Armed separatist groups such as the National Democratic Front of Bodoland, United Liberation Front of Asom and the esoterically named United Liberation Front of the Barak Valley are blamed for announcing sporadic state-wide ‘bandhs’ (strikes and blockades) that cripple production. “Sometimes they target only Oil India employees,” adds our source.

“They put up roadblocks and don’t let us reach our office or home.” Between April and August, we hear, work was disrupted for 76 out of 148 calendar days, hitting production and disrupting supplies to four north-eastern refineries at Numaligarh, Guwahati, Bongaigaon and Digboi.

Complaints to local police fall on deaf ears, allowing extremists to damage well head fittings, cut oil and gas flow lines, and sometime pierce them to drain out crude, triggering serious fire and safety hazards. Such is the impact of these attacks that Oil India production from Assam has dropped from a high of 78,500 b/d (10,765 tonnes) in March this year to 76,500 (10,482 tonnes) in August.

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