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Asia's oldest oil refineries in Assam and its environmental impact

Digboi Refinery was commissioned on 11th December 1901 and is India’s oldest operating refinery and one of the oldest operating refineries in the world.

By nayanikaphukan
New Update
digboi refinery impact on environment

Digboi is a town in the Tinsukia District situated in the northeastern part of the state of Assam, India. According to IndianOil, Digboi Refinery was commissioned on 11th December 1901 and is India’s oldest operating refinery and one of the oldest operating refineries in the world. The historic Digboi Refinery has been termed the ‘Gangotri of the Indian Hydrocarbon sector.’ The refinery has a crude processing capacity of 0.65 MMTPA.

Read more: Digboi Refinery - IndianOil

Assam's Digboi Refinery: Asia Oldest Refinery
Assam's Digboi Refinery: Asia Oldest Refinery

Oil refining impact on the environment

A paper published in the Encyclopedia of Life Support Systems states that while being an important energy source, the petroleum industry provides feedstocks and plays a growing and relevant role in people’s lives, the industry holds major potential hazards for the environment.

The most widespread and dangerous consequence of oil and gas industries is pollution, the paper claims.

Over 800 distinct chemicals are produced during drilling, production, refining, and transportation in the form of wastewater, gas emissions, solid waste, and aerosols. Amplification of the greenhouse effect, acid rain, decreased water quality, and groundwater contamination is some other environmental effects. Additionally, the oil and gas sector harms ecosystems and reduces biodiversity.

Phytoplanktons diversity change

Department of Botany, Gauhati University did a comprehensive study to investigate the phytoplankton community and water quality in the Digboi oil refinery effluent stream. Phytoplanktons are microscopic plants that grow in water bodies and are very sensitive to slight changes in environmental conditions. They are considered a tool for biomonitoring of polluted water bodies and abundant growth of these indicates high pollution.


The study revealed a total of 139 species of phytoplankton were recorded from the Digboi oil refinery effluent receiving stream. It was also stated that increased inorganic phosphorus and nitrate content in water from the refinery enhanced the phytoplankton abundance.

In 2020, the National Green Tribunal instructed Assam Pollution and Control Board (APCB) to issue necessary steps for environmentally sound handling and management of hazardous waste. APCB was also asked to undertake the process of verification of records, generation, storing, handling, selling, transportation, and disposal of these hazardous wastes.

Read more: REPORT BY ASSAM SPCB IN OA NO. 67 of 2020

Environmental measures

According to their official website, Digboi Refinery is an ISO-9001, ISO 14001, and BS OHSAS 18001. This certification implies that it uses all possible means to promote environmental protection through the adoption of proactive pollution control measures. They have also mentioned that besides efforts within the refinery, Assam Oil also actively promotes environmental protection, tree plantation, and conservation efforts by interacting with local schools, colleges, and various social and NGOs.

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