Explosion at Riau refinery operated by Indonesia state oil firm; third major incident in a month


JAKARTA: Following an explosion at a refinery operated by state oil and gas firm Pertamina in western Indonesia, the firm said that its focus will now be on helping the local community recover from the incident. 

The explosion, which happened on Saturday (Apr 1) in Dumai City, Riau province injured nine workers and damaged several buildings in the area.

It was the third major incident involving Pertamina in under a month, following a fire at a fuel storage depot in North Jakarta and another aboard an oil tanker chartered by the firm. 

“PT Kilang Pertamina International (PT KPI) Refinery Unit Dumai apologises for this incident. And we will be responsible for the losses incurred in the community,” Mr Agustiawan, a spokesman for the Dumai refinery unit, said in a statement on Sunday. 

According to him, several houses and places of worship – particularly those adjacent to the refinery – suffered damage in the explosion. 

To accelerate the recovery process, Mr Agustiawan said that a team has been formed, involving the local government, law enforcement, and community representatives. 

Among the measures taken so far include data collection on the losses in the community while a medical team has been deployed to conduct health checks for people in the area. 

“We will also ensure that the national fuel stock, especially (in) the North Sumatra region, is sufficient. 

“Hopefully, the recovery process can run well so that in the next few days, the refinery’s operational conditions can run optimally,” said Mr Agustiawan. 

The cause of the explosion is currently being investigated by the Riau Regional Police, who are also aiding in the recovery process.  

“We ensure to maintain a safe parameter and help people to return to their daily life. 

“(We will also) investigate the causes of this accident. We will probe into it along with related parties,” said Riau Police Chief Inspector General Muhammad Iqbal on Sunday, according to Tempo. 

Mr Iqbal was reported as saying that the fire in the incident was extinguished in less than 20 minutes.

According to Tempo news outlet, Mr Agustiawan said that refinery operations in the affected unit have been temporarily suspended to ensure security at the location.

“The causes of the incident remain unknown. The team continues to focus on ensuring safe conditions. 

“Pertamina Dumai Refinery also continues to ensure that the community around the refinery is not affected by this accident,” said Mr Agustiawan, as quoted by Tempo. 

The Saturday explosion came after two separate fires last month at facilities linked to the firm, one at a Pertamina fuel storage depot in Plumpang, North Jakarta, and another on an oil tanker chartered by the company. 

A massive fire broke out on Mar 3 at a fuel storage depot run by Pertamina in Plumpang which led to more than 30 deaths when the fire ripped through a nearby residential area. 

Thousands of people were forced to evacuate when the fire broke out, with witnesses likening the fire to a bomb blast after an initial explosion sent panicked locals screaming and fleeing through narrow roads. 

The state-owned firm said a pipe leak had been detected before the fire started. The firm has since apologised and one of its directors was removed from his post. 

President Joko Widodo also called on Jakarta’s governor and ministers to find a solution to fuel depots located near residential areas to avoid a repeat disaster.

A separate fire also broke out on Mar 26 on a Pertamina-chartered oil tanker, MT Kristin, in the waters west of Lombok Island, West Nusa Tenggara. 

According to Antara, the vessel had 17 crew members on board and was carrying 5,900 kilolitres of fuel when the fire broke out. Two crew members have died and one has been reported missing. 

“Currently, PT Pertamina International Shipping (PIS) is focusing on searching for the ship’s crew and thoroughly investigating the cause of the incident,” PIS’s corporate secretary, Muh. Aryomekka Firdaus, said in a statement issued on Monday.

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