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Pertamina admits its pipeline did cause the major oil spill in Borneo

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World Pipelines,

Reuters are reporting that Indonesia’s state-owned oil company Pertamina has accepted responsibility for the oil spill off the coast of Borneo that has prompted a major clean-up operation in the area. Pertamina states that it was a cracked underwater pipeline that caused the disaster.

Authorities rushed to contain the spill off Balikpapan, which started on Saturday 31 March and sparked a fire on a fishing boat that killed four people, with another body found yesterday.

Pertamina reports that sonar equipment has revealed that one of its pipelines had been punctured, which was the source of the spill. The company discovered this on Tuesday 3 April, however did not make this public until late Wednesday 4 April. “The pipe was found… in a broken condition. There were external factors that caused that,” said Togar MP, General Manager of Pertamina’s refinery in Balikpapan. "When we checked on the first day it all looked normal."

The sonar equipment tests have shown that one of the pipes had moved approximately 100 m from its original position. Djoko Siswanto, Director General of Oil and Gas at the Energy Ministry, said it was unknown how the leak was specifically caused: “It could be that the pipeline is rusty or an anchor hit it.” However, Togar suggested to local media that the pipe had been tugged out of position and broken "by a heavy force".

It remains unclear whether the pipeline has been repaired.

For several days following the spill, Pertamina denied responsibility, claiming that initial tests showed the oil was marine fuel used in boats, not the crude oil that flows through the company’s pipelines. Pertamina also claimed that it had sent down divers to assess their pipelines and reported no damage. However, yesterday, East Kalimantan Police Spokesman Ade Yaya Suryana said the latest sample of the leaking substance confirmed it to be crude oil from a seabed pipe owned by Pertamina.

Pertamina’s refinery remained in operation as normal for multiple days after the initial leak.

Balikpapan city, a major mining and energy hub, declared a state of emergency on Monday, warning residents to stay away from the coast and prioritise safety, with masks distributed and more than 1300 people suffering from breathing problems and nausea. There is also concern over the environmental damage, since Balikpapan bay is home to protected dugongs and dolphins.

Indonesian police say a criminal prosecution may follow.

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