Viewing cable 06JAKARTA13358
Title: East Java Mudflow: Methane Line Explodes

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06JAKARTA133582006-11-30 09:10:00 2011-08-30 01:44:00 UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY Embassy Jakarta
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PP RUEHCHI RUEHDT RUEHHM
DE RUEHJA #3358/01 3340910
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P 300910Z NOV 06
FM AMEMBASSY JAKARTA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 2285
INFO RUEHZS/ASSOCIATION OF SOUTHEAST ASIAN NATIONS
RUEHBY/AMEMBASSY CANBERRA 0145
RUEHWL/AMEMBASSY WELLINGTON 1167
RHHMUNA/HQ USPACOM HONOLULU HI
RUEHGP/AMEMBASSY SINGAPORE 5605
RHMFIUU/DEPT OF ENERGY WASHINGTON DC
RUCPDOC/DEPT OF COMMERCE WASHDC
ZEN/AMCONSUL SURABAYA
UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 04 JAKARTA 013358 
 
SIPDIS 
 
DEPT FOR EAP/MTS AND EB/ESC/IEC 
DEPT PASS OPIC, EXIM, TDA 
DOE FOR CUTLER/PI-32 AND NAKANO/PI-42 
COMMERCE FOR USDOC 4430 
 
FROM AMCONSUL SURABAYA #2685 
 
SENSITIVE 
SIPDIS 
 
E.O. 12958:  N/A 
TAGS: ECON EINV EPET PGOV CACS ID
SUBJECT: East Java Mudflow: Methane Line Explodes 
Causing Flooding and Blackouts 
 
Ref A: Jakarta 7839 
Ref B: Jakarta 8250 
Ref C: Jakarta 11110 
Ref D: Jakarta 12733 
 
¶1. (SBU) SUMMARY: Pertamina's main East Java methane 
gas line ruptured near the PT. Lapindo Brantas 
(Lapindo) mud volcano site in Porong, Sidoarjo, East 
Java on November 22, causing power outages and 
permanently closing the Surabaya-Malang toll road.  No 
American Citizens were among the 14 dead and 13 
injured.  East Java's power plants operated on 
emergency fuel supplies at reduced capacity and many 
local factories were closed until repairs were 
completed November 26.  The explosion was caused by 
erosion of the earth underneath the pipe, resulting 
structural failure and gas release.  GOI geologists and 
expat consultants warned Lapindo and Pertamina of the 
impending explosion, but there was insufficient time to 
move or decommission the pipe.  In a November 29 
meeting, National Mudflow Disaster Management Team 
(Timnas) scientists noted continually increasing 
volumes of mud flowing from the volcano.  Timnas 
projects massive flooding in the Porong area over the 
next few months, destroying as many as 10,000 homes and 
the main East Java north-south rail line. 
Representatives from Santos, a minority partner in 
Lapindo, said that the relief well effort is likely to 
fail and all future planning should be based on the mud 
flowing permanently.  (Note: Controlling interest in 
Lapindo is held by Minister of Social Welfare Aburizal 
Bakrie and his family.)  The GOI is expected to 
"nationalize" the mud problem in the next few days, 
with the GOI taking over all areas of control from 
Lapindo, but it is not yet clear whether the GOI will 
continue to hold the Lapindo partners financially 
responsible for all of the damages.  END SUMMARY. 
 
Gas Line Blows 
-------------- 
 
¶2. (SBU) On November 22, the Pertamina's 28 inch East 
Java main methane line adjacent to the Lapindo well 
blowout and mudflow eruption in Porong, East Java (see 
Refs A-D) fractured and exploded, tearing open a dam 
wall and releasing large amounts of hot mud to the west 
of the well blowout inundating several hundred more 
homes and a factory.   Twelve people died and two more 
are missing and presumed drowned in the scalding hot, 
thick mud.  Most of the dead were police and army 
officers providing security at the site.  Thirteen 
people were injured.  None of the Americans working at 
the relief well site were affected.  The explosion and 
ensuing mud release placed 7 feet of mud on a one 
kilometer section of the Surabaya-Malang toll road, 
permanently closing a major piece of East Java 
transportation infrastructure.  The gas line automatic 
shut-off valve functioned and damage was limited to the 
immediate area of the explosion.  The gas line was 
repaired and placed back in to service November 26. 
 
Power Disruptions, Factories Close Temporarily 
--------------------------------------------- - 
 
¶3. (SBU) The gas pipeline supplies 330 million cubic 
feet of gas per day to more than 265 of Surabaya's 
largest industrial users, including 1,000 Megawatts of 
State Power Company (PLN) power plants, Indonesia's 
largest fertilizer producer and the State Gas Company. 
PLN implemented its emergency plans, operating power 
plants on fuel oil at 20 to 40 percent reduced 
capacity.  Many factories were unable to operate due to 
the loss of gas supply.  Much of Metro Surabaya 
experienced temporary blackouts and water supply 
stoppages during the time the gas line was down.  The 
City of Sidoarjo (population 500,000) experienced 
 
JAKARTA 00013358  002 OF 004 
 
 
nearly 24 hours of blackout immediately after the 
explosion and intermittent power availability until the 
gas line resumed supply.  Damage and economic loss 
estimates have not yet been released. 
 
¶4. (SBU) The explosion was caused by subsidence at the 
well site due to underground erosion. The high pressure 
hot water has been dissolving the shale deposits under 
the pipe, undermining its support and causing it to 
fracture and release the volatile gas.  As early as 
June, GOI geologists and expat consultants expressed 
concern that the weight of toll road repairs, piling 
dirt on top of East Java's main methane line, could 
cause a sudden collapse and rupture the line as the 
earth underneath subsides (Ref. B and D).  The land 
around the mud volcano and under the mud lake has sunk 
over 15 feet in some locations and is sinking at an 
increasing rate.  Most recently, the National Mudflow 
Disaster Management Team (Timnas) claims it warned 
Pertamina of an impending explosion due to structural 
failure in the gas line three weeks ago.  Pertamina has 
a plan to relocate the pipe that will take possibly one 
year to execute.  Pertamina says that it has no 
alternative other than to repair the pipe as needed and 
that future service interruptions are likely. Pertamina 
released a statement blaming Lapindo for the on-going 
problem. 
 
Increasing Mudflow Means Rainy Season Flooding 
--------------------------------------------- - 
 
¶5. (SBU) In a November 29 meeting with ConGen at the 
Surabaya Institute of Technology, four members of 
Timnas (scientists and engineers) and three 
representatives of Santos (Australia's third largest 
oil company and 18 percent owner of Lapindo) shared 
alarming projections of increasing mudflow rates and 
flooding during the rainy season.  (Note: East Java's 
rainy season normally starts in October, but was late 
this year, starting only a few days ago. End Note.) 
The average flow rate has increased to 225,000 cubic 
meters per day (enough to fill RFK Stadium every six 
days). 
 
Measurement Date            Flow (000 cm/day) 
----------------            ---- 
May 29, 2006                5 
June 15                     25 
July 17                     50 
September 30                125 
November 27                 225 
January 15                  300 (est.) 
 
The intense pressure of the million year old ocean 
water entering the well is eroding the uncased well 
walls, thus expanding the well size and the volumes of 
water that can escape from the 200 square kilometer 
underground reservoir.  The scientists project the flow 
rate to continue increasing as the well deteriorates, 
possibly to 300,000 cubic meters per day by January. 
The mud volcano is now growing at approximately 1.5 
feet per day and will overflow the dam walls soon after 
the rains make the dam walls too soft for the heavy 
equipment needed to add to their height. 
 
¶6. (SBU) The Timnas scientists revealed startling 
computer projections forecasting massive flooding over 
the next few months to the west and east of the 1,000 
acre mud lake.  Flooding to the west will be 
particularly damaging with as many as 10,000 homes 
affected, displacing an estimated 55,000 more people. 
The main Surabaya-Malang rail line and the adjacent 
Porong Road are also projected to be rendered useless 
by the flooding.  The flooding to the west would be 
caused from blockage of existing rain water runoff 
channels coming from the northwest by the 40 kilometers 
 
JAKARTA 00013358  003 OF 004 
 
 
of dam walls built to contain the mud.  The flooding to 
the east would be caused by mud overflowing the dam 
walls and dam wall failures.  The scientists calculate 
a 70% probability that this "worst case" scenario will 
be realized, likely in January or February 2007. 
 
Relief Wells Failing - Quick Solution Unlikely 
--------------------------------------------- - 
 
¶7. (SBU) During the same meeting, the Santos 
representatives stated that the relief well effort, the 
last hope to stop the mudflow, is very likely to fail 
and that future planning should be focused on the mud 
flowing permanently.  The two reasons they sited for 
their pessimism are the noted deterioration of the well 
walls at 9,800 feet below ground and the amount of 
earth shifting due to the subsidence.  The relief well 
must hit a target the size of a manhole cover but the 
margin of error has increased to three football fields. 
They see the relief well program as a long shot at 
best.  In addition, even if they are able to hit their 
target, one relief well is no longer likely to be able 
to pump enough material to plug the enlarged hole. 
They estimate three relief wells are now needed to 
create enough pressure volume.  The Timnas members said 
that the second relief well, which started drilling one 
month ago, is now 1,000 feet down and is failing due to 
subsidence under the drilling rig.  Basuki Hadimuljono, 
head of Timnas, has called a November 30 meeting to 
announce closure of the second relief well and its move 
to a safer location.  There are now two additional 
relief well sites identified, but this setback means at 
least another four to five months before the relief 
wells could be ready.  The well hole may be 
deteriorating so quickly now that three wells will not 
be enough to stop the flow. 
 
Preparations - Too Little Too Late 
---------------------------------- 
 
¶8. (SBU) Timnas is responding to this looming disaster. 
According to the Timnas engineers, they are frantically 
digging new rain water runoff channels to reroute 
potential flood waters to the Porong River before they 
reach Porong itself.  Timnas is also strengthening and 
enlarging existing roadways in a circular route through 
Mojokerto around the impacted area.  They anticipate 
the 1.5 hour trip from Surabaya to Malang will average 
5-6 hours in good weather along this route.  Timnas is 
also making improvements to the tiny port in 
Banyuwangi, East Java to handle larger container 
volumes, anticipating manufacturers in the Pasuruan, 
Malang and Probolinggo industrial estates will be 
physically or economically (increased transportation 
costs negating profit margins) cut off from the Tanjung 
Perak port in Surabaya.  The Timnas members said they 
expect the Lapindo mud problem to be fully nationalized 
in the next few days, with the GOI taking over all 
areas of control from Lapindo. 
 
GOI Needs to Step In 
-------------------- 
 
¶9. (SBU) The GOI is finally acknowledging that they 
have a major economic and environmental problem in East 
Java.  Although the Timnas members have not studied the 
potential economic impacts of the current and likely 
future transportation corridor closures, local East 
Java economists tell us that the impact has already 
been significant.  Timnas members do understand that 
the social implications of 55,000 newly displaced 
people would be severe, with demonstrations likely 
blocking the few remaining transportation routes to 
draw the government's attention to their plight, 
closing off southern East Java from Surabaya.  In a 
recent public meeting, the national legislature 
 
JAKARTA 00013358  004 OF 004 
 
 
criticized Timnas head Basuki and the government's slow 
response to the mud problem.  Basuki defended himself 
stating that Timnas was formed less than two months 
ago, four months after the blowout occurred.  The 
amount of finger pointing associated with the Lapindo 
debacle is increasing as the scope and magnitude of the 
problem expands. 
 
¶10. (SBU) Vice President Kalla, seeking to "reassure" 
mud flow victims (and end their protests we assume), 
announced publicly that all victims would be 
compensated for their losses.  Kalla guaranteed that 
Lapindo and its partners would live up to their 
obligations and not flee the country, noting, "The 
Bakrie and Panigoro families are respected and have 
true nationalism."  Kalla also stated that the two 
Indonesian families involved in Lapindo will pay to 
build a new turnpike as they are, "very rich and can 
easily afford the Rp 1.3 billion (USD 130,000) to 
replace the toll road".  (Note:  We are not sure what 
USD 130,000 will buy but we are pretty certain that, 
even in Indonesia, it will not buy a new toll road.) 
However, Lapindo and its partners have consistently 
shown their unwillingness to spend the money necessary 
to fix this problem quickly, while it was still 
manageable (Ref. D).  Avowals of nationalist sentiment 
from Kalla aside, local residents are now vocal in 
their demands that the GOI "nationalize" the Lapindo 
blowout and hold the three partners financially 
responsible for all of the damages.  To date, less than 
USD 30 million has been paid to the mud victims to 
compensate for the loss of their homes and businesses. 
Short of forcing the three partners to escrow 
sufficient funds to cover present and future damages, , 
it is unlikely that the GOI can guarantee compensation 
to the growing number of Lapindo disaster victims 
(including the local governments) without  sticking 
Indonesian taxpayers with the bill. 
 
PASCOE