Mumbai High fire results in loss of 110,000 b/d output

Vol 9, PW 8 (28 Jul 05) People & Policy

Its being described as the biggest disaster ever to hit the Indian oil sector.

On (Wednesday) 27th July a platform at ONGCs Mumbai High North field was gutted in a fire. Later, a grim faced oil minister Mani Shankar Aiyar told a hastily arranged press conference: "The platform is completely destroyed.

It will take some months to return to normal." An oil ministry source adds: "This is a very rare incident; the first of its kind in India." ONGCs oil production is hit by 110,000 b/d. Adds our source: "We hope to restore about 70% of this production in about four weeks time, but it will take a few months to put in a new platform." The MHN platform originally cost $180m but the cost to replace it "will be a few thousand crore rupees." Mercifully, the loss of human life will not be as high as initially feared.

Of the 384 people at work when the fire broke out, 361 were rescued from the Arabian Sea by Thursday (28th July) afternoon in a well co-ordinated operation by ONGC, Indian Navy and the Coast Guard. Ten bodies were recovered while six divers were believed safe in a decompression chamber.

"Only seven personnel are unaccounted for," we are told. Search and rescue operations are severely hit by the unusually rough monsoon seas and the virtual paralysis of Mumbai operational base of Mumbai High because of rains and flooding, Prime minister Manmohan Singh and oil minister Aiyar are in Mumbai for a first hand account.

PETROWATCH learns the accident happened when ONGC multi support vessel Sagar Surakshak (Guardian of the Seas) tried a medical evacuation at the BHN process platform. "The vessel was tossed about by the rough seas, lost control and smashed into the riser below the platform." This caused an explosion and a fire that engulfed the platform, about 160-km offshore Mumbai.

The fire spread rapidly fed by the crude oil stored on board the process platform, leaving just enough time for personnel to jump overboard. (Back)