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OIL scales Mizoram hills to begin drilling

- Campaign most challenging: Officials

Jorhat, July 11: Oil India Limited (OIL) has surmounted one of its toughest challenges ever to begin drilling operations for the first time in Mizoram.

Mizoram chief minister Lal Thanhawla formally flagged off the operation at Aibawk-I in Maubuang, about 35km from Aizawl, on Monday.

“This was one of the most challenging campaigns undertaken by OIL in the company’s history. The site was located in an inaccessible hilly terrain. There are more challenges ahead as our drilling activities in more wells will continue,” Rahul Dasgupta, general manager of OIL (Northeast frontier operations) told The Telegraph over phone today.

Mizoram has become the third state in the Northeast where the company has started its operations after Assam and Arunachal Pradesh where OIL has been producing oil and gas. The company first discovered crude oil at Digboi in Tinsukia district in Assam way back in 1889.

Mizoram chief minister Lal Thanhawla (in brown dress) at the drilling site

Dasgupta said the well at the particular site in Mizoram has a target depth of 4,500 metres and extreme effort would be required to reach the target of the well which lies within the complex geology of Tripura-Mizoram fold thrust belt.

The exploration activities of the company started in the particular area in 2007 and after getting necessary clearance from the authorities, the final work to carry out the drilling activities was undertaken two years ago.

“The biggest challenge was to construct the drilling plinth at the well site as the area is covered by steep hills. The company has never operated on such a rough terrain before. However, our men made special efforts and we managed to successfully begin drilling activities,” he said.

The company had to repair the road leading to the particular area in several places with the help of the Mizoram PWD. They had to construct the road leading to the well on their own, apart from erecting the platform for installing machines to carry out the drilling activities.

The company’s expectations in Mizoram are quite high given the fact that the official data released by the Centre states that the block has huge hydrocarbon reserves of around 170 million tonnes. At present, the company produces around 3.5 million tonnes of crude per annum from its operations in the northeastern states.

The company will carry out exploratory drilling at three more promising locations within the block areas in the first phase and at another location later in Mizoram. This will be done in accordance with the minimum work programme outlined in the production-sharing contract, with an aim to ascertain the techno-economic viability of hydrocarbon production in the block area for an eight-year period (2007-2015).

Company sources said drilling of wells in Mizoram would cost almost four times the drilling cost in Assam because of the lack of proper roads and the difficult terrain. According to an estimate, the company is going to spend around Rs 500 crore to drill the first five wells in the state.

The drilling site

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