Surat: A fire broke out at the Oil and Natural Gas Corporation's (ONGC) Hazira gas processing plant in Gujarat's Surat district in the wee hours on Thursday. The blaze was preceded by three blasts, and has been extinguished, the official said.
The massive blaze could be seen from a distance of several km, eyewitnesses said. Some also posted videos of the explosions and the fire on social media.
"The fire broke out in the inlet gas terminal after three massive blasts at 3.05 am. The compressed gas was depressurised to bring the fire under control," Surat District Collector Dhaval Patel said.
Fire vehicles of the ONGC, Surat Municipal Corporation and local industrial units rushed to the spot and brought the blaze under control, he said.
The inlet gas terminal where the fire broke out was cordoned off and the plant secured, he said, adding the cause of the fire will be ascertained after cooling operations are completed.
No other industry in the area was affected, he said.
The ONGC in a tweet said, "A fire was observed in the Hazira Gas processing plant in the morning today. Fire has been brought under control. There is no casualty or injury to any person."
"Fire has been completely extinguished. Efforts are being made to resume normal operations at the earliest," it said in another tweet.
Meanwhile, police said they were informed that a 45- year-old man died after sparks from the blast burnt down the shanty in which he was sleeping, outside the plant.
Deputy Commissioner of Police Panna Momaya said police were informed shortly after noon, about a charred body being found outside the plant, hours after the blaze was put out.
She said a team of Forensic Science Laboratory (FSL) was called to ascertain the cause of his death.
The man who informed police about the body claimed he died after a spark from the blast fell on the plastic cover of his shanty located outside the plant, she said.
Another police official said the distance between the spot of the fire and the place where the body was found, is around 250 metres.
Fire at the plant snaps supplies
Meanwhile, the company said the fire incident has snapped fuel supplies to power and fertilizer companies and it is diverting gas from other fields to make up for the shortfall.
Hazira facility received gas from ONGC's Bassein field off the west coast as well as from Panna/Mukta and Tapti fields. It was handling some 32-33 million standard cubic meters of gas per day.
As a safety drill, after the fire, fields were shut and gas supplies to customers snapped, a company official said adding operations will be restarted soon once the safety review is complete.
ONGC rushed senior officials including Director (Offshore) Rajesh Kakkar to Hazira to oversee the safe restart of the system which can happen as early as Friday.
The Hazira plant is India's largest gas-processing facility and a critical supplier of the fuel to domestic industries that receive gas from the Hazira-Vijaipur-Jagdishpur (HVJ) trunkline. The HVJ trunkline is the country's largest and runs from Hazira in the west to Jagdishpur in northern India.
State-owned gas utility GAIL India, which used to supply gas from Hazira to users such as power plants and fertilizer units, has enough stocks in the HVJ pipeline to maintain supplies for some time but said it is rationing gas supplies to customers because it is unclear when the Hazira plant will resume full operations.
GAIL in a statement said "about 30 mmscmd of natural gas supplies into its north-western pipeline network (HVJ system) was immediately shut-off" following the fire.
Later in a statement, ONGC said the fire at Hazira Gas Processing Plant near Surat has been extinguished. "All efforts are being made to resume normal operations in the plant at the earliest."
"Earlier in the day, fire was observed around 3.05 am due to leakage of gas from a gas pipeline," it said. "On the first signs of gas leak and fire, emergency shutdown actuators were immediately activated and plant was shut down."
ONGC said to ensure safety and as a measure to control fire, gas pipelines in the plant were depressurised by releasing the gas in the pipelines, in a controlled manner, through the Flare Stack.
"Large scale depressurisation, actuated due to shutdown of the units, resulted in blast-like noise," it said. "Disaster Management Plan including pressing fire tenders into service was immediately activated. The fire was completely extinguished by 0730 hours today."
It said there were no casualty or injury in the plant and the cause of incident is being investigated.
GAIL said: "In the force majeure event triggered by the ONGC Hazira incident, supply cuts up to 40 per cent against current allocations have been imposed on the downstream customers."
"However, uninterrupted supplies are continued to be maintained to the city gas customers for supporting domestic kitchens (piped natural gas) and public transportation (CNG)," GAIL said in a statement.
The ONGC official said the company was diverting 2-2.5 mmscmd of gas from Uran to meet the immediate shortfall of critical customers.
Operations will be resumed once all safety parameters are reviewed, he said adding the damage was limited due to the company's high safety standards including automatic shut-off of gas source in the event of any disaster.
State-owned power producer NTPC shut its 656-megawatt gas-based power plant at Kawas near Hazira and the 657 MW Jhanor-Gandhar plant due to gas supply disruption. Fertilizer maker Kribhco hasreduced capacity after cut in gas supplies.
"GAIL north-western pipeline grid supports about 80 mmscmd and there is no damage to the network due to the unfortunate incident at ONGC facilities at Hazira," the company statement said.
GAIL said it is committed forthe safe operation of the pipeline network and is maintaining close coordination with ONGC teams at the site, towards the speedier restoration of natural gas supplies through alternative systems.
(With inputs from Reuters and PTI)