Oil spill contained

Published:  10 April, 2018

Days of extensive clean-up operations have contained 90% of a massive oil spill in Balikpapan, Indonesia.

The incident took place on 31 March and led Indonesian officials to declare a state of emergency on 2 April in the seaport city of Balikpapan on the island of Borneo.

Five fishermen were killed when the oil spill ignited and local people reported suffering from nausea and breathing difficulties as a result of the smoke. Witnesses described the blaze as up to 2km high.

The equivalent of more than 14,000 barrels of oil are thought to have run into Balikpapan bay in East Kalimantan Province from a burst pipeline connecting the Lawe-Lawe terminal to the refinery unit of state-owned oil and gas company Pertamina.

The Energy and Mineral Resources Ministry’s oil and gas director general Djoko Siswanto said that the pipe could have ruptured after being dragged by a ship’s anchor.

The oil spill covered an area of nearly 13,000 hectares and polluted 60km of coastal ecosystems, including mangrove wetlands and marine mammal habitats.

Pertamina deployed more than 234 people and 21 vessels to clean up the oil spill; they were assisted by Chevron Indonesia and Petrosea as well as volunteers from the military and the local community.

The head of the environmental agency said that the remaining oil was located in the coastal areas and that the clean-up operation would be completed shortly.

The Environment and Forestry Ministry told PT Pertamina this week that it should take responsibility for the restoration of the polluted bay.

According to the ministry, the refinery lacked an early-warning system and an automated monitoring system.

An investigation is under way by the national police.

Picture: Balikpapan Refinery (credit: Tropenmuseum, part of the National Museum of World Cultures)

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