Six old ONGC wells at Ravva threaten environment

Vol 6, PW 7 (05 Jun 02) Exploration & Production

SIX LEAKING GAS wells at the Ravva oil and gasfield threaten to become an environmental and safety tinderbox.

They also threaten to become a major row between operator Cairn Energy and partners ONGC, Videocon and Marubeni. Cairn is not to blame as the wells were abandoned by ONGC and fell to Command Petroleum when it took over the field in 1994.

Cairn inherited them from Command in 1996. Fortunately for Cairn, it is on solid legal ground: under the PSC it is not responsible for ONGC's abandoned wells at Ravva - a fact recognised by the oil ministry and ONGC - both have 'indemnified' Cairn against loss or damage from ONGC activity pre-Command.

Two years ago the oil ministry told ONGC to repair the leaking wells but ONGC did nothing. A source tells us the DGH recently asked Cairn to repair the wells.

Surprised, Cairn agreed - even though it is not liable - but later pleaded helplessness in the absence of technical data from ONGC, which it needs to close the wells. To help Cairn the DGH asked ONGC to provide the data but for some inexplicable reason ONGC has not supplied the data even though Cairn has agreed to let the joint venture pay for the repair.

All the partners - barring ONGC - have now agreed ONGC should carry out the physical repair of the wells. "ONGC drilled and abandoned the wells and holds all the available data," reveals a source.

"It is much better placed to take remedial action." Some believe ONGC has either lost or misplaced the relevant well data needed to close the wells!