Pertamina, the state-run company of Indonesia, has admitted that its cracked underwater pipeline was the reason for the oil spill off the coast of the port city of Balikpapan on the island of Borneo.
The fire, caused by spillage, had killed four people.
The oil had spread to an area of around 12km² last weekend, following which authorities rushed to contain the spill off Balikpapan.
Pertamina’s Balikpapan refinery general manger Togar MP was quoted by Reuters as saying: “The pipe was found in a broken condition. There were external factors that caused that.
“We are still calculating the volume of the leak and losses.”
This pipeline is located 25m under the sea. Some initial tests indicated that the spilled oil was marine oil used in boats. This led to a belief that the spill could have been caused by a bulk coal carrier, which was transporting coal from Indonesia to Malaysia.
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A government official is now unclear what had caused the leak. Energy Ministry’s oil and gas director general Djoko Siswanto was quoted by the news agency as saying: “It could be that the pipeline is rusty or an anchor hit it.”
Balikpapan, a major mining and energy hub, has a population of 700,000. Residents are struggling to deal with the toxic smoke after the spill caught fire. Almost 1,200 residents complained of nausea, vomiting and breathing problems and the city officials distributed masks.
Indonesia had declared a state of emergency on Monday following the oil spill and cautioned residents to stay off the coast as this area was prone to fires.