6 injured, hundreds evacuated after massive blaze at Indonesia oil refinery

6 injured, hundreds evacuated after massive blaze at Indonesia oil refinery

Smoke rises during fire at Pertamina's oil refinery in Balongan, Indramayu regency
Smoke rises during a fire at Pertamina's oil refinery in Balongan, Indramayu regency, West Java province, Indonesia, Mar 29, 2021. (Photo: Antara Foto/Dedhez Anggara via REUTERS)

JAKARTA: Indonesian state oil company Pertamina said on Monday (Mar 29) it has shut its Balongan oil refinery in West Java as it battles to control a massive fire that broke out overnight, injuring six people.

About 950 nearby residents had been evacuated, Pertamina said, with videos shared on social media showing huge flames engulfing the 125,000 barrels per day facility, while a large explosion can be heard.

The fire started just after midnight, local media reported, while Pertamina said in a statement it broke out during bad weather. It was conducting "oil flow control" to prevent any further spread.

"The cause of the fire is unknown, but during the incident, there was heavy rain and lightning," it said.

Pertamina spokesman Ifki Sukarya said six people were being treated in hospital for burns, adding that some were passing near the refinery when the fire broke out. No Pertamina staff were hurt, he said.

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 225km east of the capital Jakarta.

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

Ahmad Dofiri, West Java police chief told local media that police suspected there was a leak at the site prior to the fire.

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.

Pertamina said on Monday it hoped to restore operations at its Balongan oil refinery in West Java in four or five days.

The company's chief executive Nicke Widyawati told reporters the fire was concentrated in the refinery's storage tanks and there had been no impact on the processing plant.

"The main equipment at the refinery is not affected," she said. "We hope the plant can be operational again soon after we put out the fire so there are no disruptions to supply."

Separately, Nicke told local media that only four storage tanks were affected, out of the total 72 tanks in Balongan with a total capacity of 1.35 million kilo litres.

The refinery is expected to receive about 600,000 barrels of Rabi crude from Gabon onboard tanker Aristodimos on Apr 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. 

Source: Reuters/dv

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