Use of an improper gasket procured from the local market has been identified as a probable cause of leak which led to the massive fire at ONGC’s Hazira gas plant in the early hours of September 24, 2020, according to a report by an enquiry committee set up by the Petroleum and Natural Gas Regulatory Board (PNGRB) to investigate the incident.
The report said that gaskets from the original equipment manufacturers (OEM) were not purchased, while the ‘O’ rings were bought from local markets and were used without any quality control measures.
The gasket was last replaced on September 18, 2020 — a few days before the fire broke out in the gas terminal of the Hazira plant — after a leakage was observed in an old meter installed in 1986. “There is no record of date or authority of the decision to switch over from OEM supplied gasket to locally purchased gasket,” the PNGRB report noted, adding that “no hydro test was done after replacement of the gasket”.
The leaked gas ignited, causing the fire, as it got exposed to the electrical fitting in one of the nearby faulty flame proof lamps. The report pointed that three bolts were missing in the lamp, resulting in it being open with the glass case getting detached from the main body, leaving a gap of six centimetres. Though electrical audit inspection is supposed to be done every six months, the last inspection before the incident was carried out in July, 2019.
The Hazira plant is the largest sour gas processing complex in the country. The plant also supplies special grade of high-flash high-speed diesel for specific use of Indian Navy. Gas supply from the plant to the prime vendor Gail had been restored by ONGC just a day after the fire. The pipelines were depressurised by flaring through the stack, causing blast-like noise, and the fire was put off within four hours.