Gujarat bomb blast fear of attack on oil installations

Vol 12, PW 6 (07 Aug 08) People & Policy

Reliance has started looking westwards to shore up security at its 33m t/y refinery in Jamnagar following a series of terrorist bomb blasts that ripped through Ahmedabad on July 26, leaving 53 dead and over 200 injured.

Parimal Nathwani, president of the company’s corporate affairs division, tells us Reliance plans to ask UK anti-terrorism and Israeli security agencies for help to strengthen security at Jamnagar, where Reliance is building a second 27m t/y refinery. Nathwani - also an independent member of the Rajya Sabha, parliament’s upper house - stresses other companies should likewise step up security against possible terrorist attacks on their oil and gas installations, most of which sit on Gujarat’s 1600-km coast.

Among those seen to be at risk are: Shell and Total’s LNG terminal at Hazira; Reliance’s petrochemical plant at Hazira; Essar’s steel and power plants at Hazira; Essar’s refinery at Vadinar; Petronet-LNG’s terminal at Dahej; ONGC’s gas processing complex at Hazira; and the HBJ and Jamnagar to Loni pipelines operated by GAIL. Ahmedabad-based security officials echo Nathwani’s call for vigilance.

“Targeting energy infrastructure would be very effective,â€‌ we hear. “Terrorists could cause pandemonium.

â€‌ Any future threat might be sea-borne. In January, union home minister Shivraj Patil warned a Delhi security conference that (terrorist group) Lashkar-e-Toiba is training operatives specifically to sabotage oil installations.

“Our coastal areas are under increasing threat,â€‌ said Patil. “Terrorists have decided to use the sea route to infiltrate India.

â€‌ Warn security officials: “With so much at stake the time has come for Gujarat to secure its shores. Ours is the longest coastline in India; we are vulnerable.

â€‌ Progress on improving the security of India’s 7516-km coastline is painfully slow. Two years ago the home ministry released Rs551cr ($131m), promising 73 new police stations and numerous paramilitary outposts but during a review in January this year it emerged only 47 stations are operational.