Continuing Haze Shuts Down Oil Wells Across Riau

Continuing Haze Shuts Down Oil Wells Across Riau

17 March 2014

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Indonesia — The haze that has been blanketing Riau province as the result of forest and plantation fires, has caused hundreds of oil wells to be shut and potential losses are estimated at around 12,000 barrels of oil per day, a spokesman at a regulatory body said on Sunday.

Handoyo Budi Santoso, the chief of the public relations division at the country’s upstream oil and gas regulator (SKK Migas) said Riau province harbors some important oil assets that support the national crude oil production.

Handoyo said the biggest production loss came from the shutdown of Rokan block, operated by Chevron Pacific Indonesia, the country’s biggest producer of crude oil.

The deteriorating quality of the air had forced CPI — a unit of American multinational energy giant Chevron Corporation — to shut down 573 oil wells and stop 19 pumps injecting water into the wells.

The water injection technique is part of the newest to boost production in aging oil wells.

Just from the Rokan block, Handoyo said potential losses were already at 8,800 barrels of oil equivalent per day (boepd).

He added that as of Thursday, according to company data, the pollution had reached level “red,” which means the Pollution Standard Index (PSI) had gone beyond the tolerance level of 500.

As a result, workers’ activities must be reduced to avoid contamination from the haze. There are also delays in maintenance schedules at the company’s facilities, according to Handoyo.

“From the health and safety point of view, this thick haze is clearly not safe for workers,” he said.

A joint operation between state energy company Pertamina and local government owned companies in Siak, Riau, is also disrupted. From this area, potential losses are estimated at around 4,000 boepd, Handoyo said.

“We hope all can work together to combat this situation, so that the disruption to production does not last long,” he added.

Handoyo said CPI has been helping the National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) to combat the haze coming from around 2,000 hotspots in the area.

Despite forestry and environmental laws prohibiting land-clearance by fire, and despite companies operating in those areas pledging zero-burning policies, the fires return every year, because it is such a cheap and fast method to pave the way for new paper-pulp and palm oil plantations.

As well as suffering from respiratory illness, residents have also been forced to leave their homes while the haze has also disrupted flights, forced schools to close and shut down some commercial activities.

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono announced three emergency measures to handle the Riau fires: extinguishing them as soon as possible; providing health treatment for affected residents; and bolstering law enforcement in affected areas.

This is despite the fact that the governor of Riau had already declared a state of emergency in the province last month.


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