Five seriously injured in Indonesian refinery explosion

Article by Amanda Jasi

AN EXPLOSION, which occurred at 00:45 local time on 29 March at an Indonesian refinery, has seriously injured at least five people.

The incident erupted at a refinery tank, specifically a T-301 tank, at Pertamina’s Balongan refinery in the Indramayu District, West Java. Pertamina is Indonesia’s national energy company. Reports note that local residents described a strong smell of fuel in the air around the time of the incident.

The New York Times reports that three storage tanks caught fire and that nearly ten hours later crews were still working to extinguish the blaze and prevent it from spreading to a fourth tank. Fire services, along with Pertamina’s Health, Safety, Security, and Environment (HSSE) team were deployed to extinguish the blaze, according to Pertamina. The fire has not been reported extinguished but according to Agus Suprijanto, Pertamina’s Senior VP for Corporate Communications & Investor Relations, it had been localised to prevent spread to the surrounding area.

Pertamina initially reported that five residents in the area at the time of the explosion suffered burns and were taken to intensive care at a local hospital. It later said that there were six victims that had been referred to another hospital, and that their conditions were being evaluated by a team of doctors. News reports have added that a further 15 people received minor injuries and that authorities were trying to locate three others.

Around 1,000 local residents have been evacuated from the area and roadblocks have been put in place. 

As a precaution the refinery has been shut down and will remain so until the fire is handled.

Meanwhile, Pertamina has assured that national fuel supply is secure. According to Pertamina’s Director of Logistics and Infrastructure Mulyono, gasoline stocks were recorded at 10.5m bbl, enough for 27–28 days. Diesel stock was at 8.8m, sufficient for 20 days of supply, and 3.2m of aviation turbine fuel, sufficient for 74 days of consumption.

Nicke Widyawati, CEO and President Director of Pertamina, said that the company would optimise products from other refineries, to remove obstacles in the supply of fuel. She added that as the main processing plant was unaffected and that the fire was contained to the tank area.

Operation startup is expected in 4–5 days according to Mulyono, with an estimated loss of production of around 400,000 bbl, which will be supplied by other Pertamina refineries.

Currently, the cause of the incident is unknown but Pertamina highlighted that it occurred during heavy rainfall and lightning. Authorities are investigating the matter.

In 2019, the company experienced an oil leak off the coast of West Java. According to reports, spillages occurred for more than two months before the underwater leak was plugged.

Article by Amanda Jasi

Staff reporter, The Chemical Engineer

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