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Refineries shut, fuel crisis likely in Northeast if agitation continues


Guwahati, Dec 13: Assam and other Northeastern states may face fuel supply issues if the agitation against the Citizenship Amendment Act continues for another week, as it has already led to the shutdown of refineries, petrochemical plants and oil-producing facilities in the region.

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Indian Oil Corp (IOC) has been forced to shut down its Digboi refinery in Assam and is operating Guwahati unit at minimal throughput, while Oil India Ltd (OIL) has been forced to shut LPG production and its crude oil production has dropped by 15-20 per cent, multiple sources at the state-owned companies said.

Oil and Natural Gas Corp (ONGC) has seen an up to 25 per cent drop in production, and gas supplies to Brahmaputra Cracker and Polymer Ltd were snapped, leading to the shutting down of Assam gas cracker project.

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Sources said the agitation has blocked the movement of tankers and trucks, which are mostly used to supply petrol, diesel and LPG from the refineries to different parts of the North East. With limited storage capacity, the companies have been forced to curtail production in absence of evacuation of products, they said.

At present, depots and petrol pumps have enough stock but they will run dry if supplies continue to remain interrupted for few more days, they said.

OIL has shut LPG production for the same reason, they said, adding that the agitation has also limited movement of employees and officers who work at the refineries and oil installations. "No employee could reach OIL facilities on Thursday," a source said, adding that things improved a bit on Friday but attendance was low.

Protesters pulled out employees from IOC refineries in Guwahati and Digboi, forcing curtailment of operations.

Sources said if the agitations were to continue for another seven to ten days, the region will face fuel supply issues as the current stocks get exhausted and supply dries up in the absence of fresh replenishment. Bongaigaon, the third refinery in Assam, was already under maintenance shutdown when the agitation broke out.

Two people were killed and 11 injured in police firing on protestors who have taken to streets since the Parliament approved the Citizenship Amendment Bill that would convert thousands of illegal immigrants into legal residents.

Sources said OIL suspended LPG production as IOC was not able to lift the cooking fuel due to protests. OIL has also stopped all drilling operations as the staff was not able to reach work.

OIL supplies crude, mainly to IOC's Digboi refinery and BPCL's Numaligarh unit.

The firm has also stopped production from several gas wells, curtailing supplies to tea gardens and power and fertiliser plants. Operations at ONGC fields have also been impacted with employees not able to reach plants.

As much as 25 per cent of production has been hit, sources said, adding that wells have been secured and production will begin as soon as normalcy is restored.

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