HYDERABAD: Gas Authority of India Limited (GAIL), the country's largest state-owned natural gas processing and distribution company, did not make any efforts to replace an "already corroded" pipeline, which exploded on June 27, killing 19 people and wounding scores in Nagaram village in East Godavari district of Andhra Pradesh, concluded a high-level probe ordered by the ministry of petroleum and natural gas.
The pipeline was 'prone to leakages' and warnings of an impending disaster went unheeded for a long time, the probe added.
"Around 7-8 leakage incidents have taken place in the natural gas pipeline (5.8 km from GAIL, Tatipaka) including a few in March this year," the probe report prepared by the committee, headed by RK Singh, joint secretary (refineries) in the ministry of petroleum and natural gas, states.
To make it worse, earlier repairs to the "leaking lines" were done either by "clamping" or by "sleeves" ( a corrosion protective wrap), which the report available with TOI says "cannot be considered a permanent repair methodology".
The probe team comprising Oil Industry Safety Directorate, National Disaster Management Authority among other agencies, did not find any evidence of any fool-proof repairs to the pipeline that runs through Nagaram village.
ONGC supplies the gas to GAIL, which in turn supplies it to Lanco Infratech Ltd, besides some thermal plants and fertilizer units locally.
Such was the intensity of the June 27 blast that flames rose to as high as 250 metres killing scores of birds and animals, burning hundreds of coconut trees and reducing about a dozen houses and many vehicles to ashes.
While, the Union government ordered an immediate probe, GAIL suspended a few officials and announced compensation, which the AP government sources described as "too little, too late."
Following an on-site investigation last month, the probe team said there was no evidence of any "integrity check-up" of the pipeline, and "no plan drawn up to replace the leaky portion of the line with a new pipeline."
While locals could not detect the odourless gas, the deafening blast occurred between 5.30am and 5.45 am after a tea stall owner lit a stove to prepare tea for a family, about 200 metres from the place where the gas leaked.
The leak probably occurred overnight and was undetected and due to cloudy conditions, the gas settled at a lower height, the report says.
What left the probe team stumped, sources said, was how during the course of maintenance work way back in 2010, experts found corrosion (damage) in the same lines and three years later recommended infusion of a 'corrosion inhibitor', a chemical compound which decreases the corrosion rate of the metal.
Investigators also said the high-intensity explosion could have also been aided by the presence of condensate, a low-density mixture of hydrocarbon liquids, present as gaseous component in the raw natural gas, which GAIL received from ONGC.
The region is prone to such blasts, mostly due to human negligence, and about a dozen such incidents have taken place since 1990 when oil and natural gas exploration picked up in the Krishna-Godavari basin.
While the probe team will soon submit a final report to the petroleum ministry, the Andhra Pradesh government is also conducting a full-fledged inquiry into the disaster and has already said it will recommend strong action and overhaul of the damaged pipelines.
The 200 km gas pipeline, 18 inches in diameter, stretches from Thatipaka refinery that produces seven lakh cubic metres of natural gas per day.
Article Source: http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/Nagaram-blast-Probe-nails-GAIL-says-it-ignored-disaster-warnings/articleshow/39775714.cms
Publication Date: 07 August 2014