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Russian army fires anti-tank artillery shells at oil well to extinguish fire

11 June 2020

Russia said it was able to stop a fire at a Siberian oil well on June 8 by firing anti-tank artillery shells at the wellhead. Officials called in the Russian army to help extinguish the blaze in the country’s Irkutsk region after an Irkutsk Oil Company well caught fire on May 30.

An MT-12 Rapira anti-tank gun was flown to the well site where it was used to fire several rounds at the wellhead from around 200 metres away. The aim was to break the wellhead from the well, the Russian Defence Ministry said in a press release. It added: “This helped set up the blowout prevention equipment to then seal the well and put out the fire”. Footage of the night-time operation was circulated and can be seen in the accompanying video.

According to its website, the Irkutsk Oil Company is one of the largest independent oil and gas producers in Russia, producing over 9 billion tonnes of oil and gas condensate. It has discovered 13 oil and gas fields in Irkutsk and Sakha. The affected well in the remote Ust-Kutsky district which caught fire is not thought to be a significant part of the oil company’s operations. 

Explosives have been used before to fight oil well fires, most notably during the First Gulf War in Kuwait when retreating Iraqi forces set fire to hundreds of oil wells in 1991. To extinguish some of the fires, explosives were used to create blast waves which pushed oxygen away from the fire.


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