Looking for water, Chumu resident drill gas

Morung Express News
Dimapur | June 2

In any other place, except Nagaland, striking oil is sure to generate great excitement. But just the opposite happened in Chumukedima, Dimapur on June 1. 

An unsuspecting resident of Chumukedima hired an expensive mobile drilling rig mounted on truck to drill a deep bore-well in his residential compound. However, instead of water the drilling machine hit a layer of gas, believed to be natural gas, at a depth of 150 feet. The place is located just on the foothills of ‘Chumu peak’ overlooking Dimapur. 

“On the fourth day of drilling, we hit a bed of rock… that was when the well started to emit an odourless gas,” said the man who did not wish to be identified. The workers had changed the drill-head to deal with the rock layer and were welding the casing pipes (of around 6-7 inches in diameter) to be lowered into the well when flames spewed out from the well. As a result one of the workers, who was welding together the 20-feet long pipes received minor burns to the hands. It occurred at around noon on Friday and till now it is emitting the gas while work has stopped completely, said the man on Saturday. On a lighter note, he quipped, “We’re searching for water not oil.”

On a serious note however, the man said that he is clueless how to stop or plug the gas emission. He though added that he has asked for help from the department of Geology & Mining to help find a solution. He had even contacted some experts from the ONGC. He said that he was advised to abandon the well citing it might be a fruitless attempt to look for water in that location. 

The Naga foothills, bordering Assam, starting from Merapani till Chumukedima is believed to be having huge reserves of petroleum as was found from geo-physical tests.  Chances of leakage of toxic fumes (or hydrogen gas) through “fracture zones” below the ground and above the oil-beds are high, say geologists. Studies state that the geological formation of the oil-bearing crust is prone to fracture from seismic activity, eventually leading to seepage of gas upward. It may be recalled that exploration for oil reserves in the foothills of Dimapur had started during the British colonial days. Even the ONGC had drilled around five wells in one of the indentified oil blocks i.e, Dimapur block – two in Tenyiphe and three in Niuland - during the early nineties, which were abandoned after 1994.

Back in January 2011, two labourers had died while digging a water-well at the Police Referral Hospital, NAPTC, Chumukedima. The deaths had occurred at a depth of 80 feet. “Foul smelling poisonous gas” emanating from below, as reported that time, was believed to have led to the deaths of the two labourers.