APSN Banner

Hundreds evacuated from massive fire at Indonesian oil refinery

Sydney Morning Herald - March 29, 2021

Bernadette Christina, Jakarta – At least 950 people were being evacuated from a nearby village after a massive fire broke out at the Pertamina Balongan Refinery in Indonesia's West Java province.

Pertamina said that five people had been injured and it was trying to control the fire.

The state oil firm said it was shutting down the refinery, which can process 125,000 barrels per day of oil into fuel, and conducting "oil flow control" to prevent any further spread. The cause of the fire is not yet clear but the fire began during heavy rain and lightning.

Residents of Balongan village were moving to two evacuation centres on Monday.

Authorities urged residents to stay calm and keep away from the fire. Four residents injured while passing through the area suffered burns and were being treated at the Indramayu regional hospital.

Television reports showed explosions and thick plumes of black smoke and orange flames filling the sky.

"We did a normal shutdown to control the flow of oil and stop the blaze from expanding," Ifki Sukarya, corporate secretary of Subholding Refining Petrochemical PT Kilang Pertamina Internasional, said in a press statement.

The fire was concentrated in the refinery's storage units, and there had been no impact on the processing plant, Pertamina said.

Balongan, one of Pertamina's biggest refineries, processes crude oil from the Duri and Minas fields in Riau province and supplies fuel to Jakarta and the western regions of Java island.

Television footage showed the fire still raging on Monday morning and a massive column of black smoke rising from the site, which is about 225 kilometres east of the capital Jakarta.

West Java police will be involved in the investigation into the cause of the fire, police spokesman Erdi Chaniago said.

"We are securing the location at the moment, since the fire is still going. We can't examine the scene yet, cooling down needed to be conducted first by Pertamina," he said.

A nearby resident told Metro TV she was awoken by a pungent smell of oil fumes and saw lightning strikes in the sky.

"We smelled a strong fuel scent first, so strong that my nose hurt, while we heard lightning strikes," said Susi, who gave only one name. "Suddenly the sky was orange," she said.

The refinery is expected to receive about 600,000 barrels of Rabi crude from Gabon onboard tanker Aristodimos on April 10, shipping data on Refinitiv Eikon showed.

Pertamina's Cilacap refinery in Central Java should be able to help meet any supply shortage in the short term, but repairs could take months depending on the damage, Mamit Setiawan, executive director of think tank Energy Watch said.

"I hope Pertamina maintains a good quick response, both in fire mitigation and in fuel supply to the community," he said. (Reuters, AP)

Source: https://www.smh.com.au/world/asia/hundreds-evacuated-from-massive-fire-at-indonesian-oil-refinery-20210329-p57ezz.htm