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Bangladesh, 2005

In Bangladesh the great rivers, the Ganges and the Brahmaputra, dump into the Bay of Bengal where they form a giant delta full of rich sediments that are ripe for offshore oil and gas exploration in fairly shallow water. There have been some awesome blowouts in the Bay of Bengal.

Onshore, in the Northeast Sylhet region, in the Surman Basin, there are marine Miocene-Pliocene sandstone belts associated with the Himalayan uplift that formed anticlines and synclines. These are often full of natural gas very high in methane. Numerous gas discoveries were made in the early 1950's in this area by Shell, Unocal and others. Oxy screwed up and had a whopper of a blowout in the Sylhet District in 1994 that caught fire, cratered and displaced 10,000 citizens from their homes. It almost ate Oxy's lunch and they ultimately high tailed out of Bangladesh to leave exploration to smaller outfits that generally partnered with Bangladesh or Indian companies for concessions. One of these smaller outfits was a Canadian company from Calgary called, Niko Resources, LTD. Niko had in mind developing deeper sandstones in a small, one well field called Chhatak, or Tengratila, discovered in 1957.

By the time Niko was finished with its Chhatak prospect I am sure it wished it had never heard of Bangladesh.


Niko's first well in the concession was drilled in 2004 where it failed to set sufficient protective casing, had several thousand meters of open hole above them when they encountered over-pressured gas. The well caught fire in February of 2005, broached the surface casing shoe and cratered. The rig was completely lost. The crater boiled and belched and little methane fires burned along the crater rim and in various places several hundred yards away, including IN the village of Tengratila.

Niko, Chhatak-2 well. Mud tanks on the edge of the crater; whats left of the rig is sunk plum out of sight

Photos by Jiri Rezac

The government demanded a quick solution to this nightmare and ordered Niko to drill a relief well. In a hurry to appease the angry masses the

Chhatak 3R had the same casing design and mud program as the 2 well had. Niko hoped to intersect the No. 2 wellbore at 400 meters below the surface casing shoe, and pump the blowout well dead. Before it got to 400 meters the relief well blew out and caught fire, sending fire 400 feet in the air. It burned for a week or more, enough time for Safety Boss Blowout Control, from Calgary, to get there to see what they could do with it.

This blowout happened six months after the first blowout occured and, as you might expect, folks in NE Bangladesh starting hollering about stringing Niko up from the nearest palm tree.

The relief well blowout flow then also broached the surface casing shoe, naturally, set the ground to bubbling all around that rig and the reserve pits caught fire. At that point there was a methane blowing out of cracks in the ground, under trees, in nearby homes, and from all nearby water wells. Even the nearby river looked like a hot tub with its jets on.

With the relief well cratered Safety Boss was released and sent back to Calgary.

Photo from Safety Boss's website

So, by end of summer 2005 this, above, is what the playing field looked like in Chhatak Gas Field. Niko has started its 2nd relief well in the distance. On the right, mid photo, we can see the first relief well, the Chhatak 3R, rig derrick still laid over and the bubbling crater where the reserve pits use to be. In the foreground the No. 2 well crater is still bubbling methane that is burning. Gas has actually broached the surface soil several hundred meters away and small fires are burning everywhere.

Residents of the village started demanding financial restitution from Niko and it ultimately paid out the whooping sum of $600,000 USD to people displaced from their homes and businesses. It refused further compensation, even threatening to cease drilling its 2nd relief well. It was sued by the Bangladesh High Court and several years later Niko pleaded guilty to charges of bribing local government officials to lessen the payment of damages and was fined, heavily.

The 2nd relief well intersected the blowout zones and rivers of water, mud and cement were pumped to try and sort this mess all out. It never quite worked, however; here is a photo of western journalists in the village of Tengratila in 2016, twelve full years after the incident occured, taking photos of venting methane gas at a shop entrance....

In March of 2019 Niko Resources, LTD was trading at $0.01 CAD per share and was delisted from the Toronto Stock Exchange. Lawsuits are still pending and many locals are still displaced from their homes in this part of Bangladesh.


Shit happens in the oil business and there is literally 100 years of shit to write about, if one had the time. I always thought that drilling off in a stinking volcano, with insufficient protective casing, here in East Java , was one of my favorite examples of you can't fix stupid, but I am working on some other stories that will top that one, and this one. Standby.

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