Indonesia Pertamina aims to restart refinery in days after blaze

The fire began just after midnight on Sunday evening, media reported.
The fire began just after midnight on Sunday evening, media reported.PHOTO: EPA-EFE
The fire began just after midnight on Sunday evening, media reported.
The fire began just after midnight on Sunday evening, media reported.PHOTO: REUTERS

JAKARTA (REUTERS) - Indonesian state oil company Pertamina said on Monday (March 29) it hoped to restore operations at its Balongan oil refinery in West Java in four or five days, as firefighters worked to extinguish a massive blaze that broke out overnight, injuring five people. 

Pertamina shut the plant and evacuated about 950 nearby residents, with videos shared on social media showing huge flames engulfing the 125,000 barrels per day facility, while a large explosion could be heard. 

Pertamina chief executive Nicke Widyawati told reporters the fire was concentrated in the refinery’s storage tanks and there had been no impact on the processing plant. 

"The main equipment at the refinery is not affected," she said. "We hope the plant can be operational again soon after we put out the fire so there are no disruptions to supply."

Pertamina expects operations can be restored in four to five days, Pertamina director Mulyono told the media briefing.

The fire started just after midnight during bad weather, Pertamina said, although the cause was currently unknown. 

Five people were being treated in hospital for burns, a company spokesman said, adding that some were passing near the refinery when the fire broke out. No Pertamina staff were hurt.   

Pertamina’s Mulyono said the company had "secure" levels of fuels stocks to supply Indonesia, including for the upcoming Islamic holidays of Eid Al-Fitr. 

"There is no need for panic because stock is abundant. This is of course because demand conditions are not fully normal yet, so the stock is still very high," Mr Mulyono said. 

Balongan, one of Pertamina’s biggest refineries, processes crude oil from the Duri and Minas fields in Riau province and supplies fuel to Jakarta and the western regions of Java island. 

Pertamina will use fuel from its other refineries in Cilacap and Tuban to help provide supplies to Jakarta while Balongan is shut, Mr Mulyono added. 

Ms Nicke said efforts to put out the blaze were continuing, but the fire had been contained to a small area.

Television footage earlier showed a massive column of black smoke rising from the site, which is about 225km east of the capital Jakarta. 

West Java police will be involved in the investigation into the cause of the fire, police spokesman Erdi Chaniago told Reuters. 

A nearby resident told Metro TV she was awoken by a pungent smell of oil fumes and saw lightning strikes in the sky. 

"We smelled a strong fuel scent first, so strong that my nose hurt, while we heard lightning strikes," said Ms Susi, who gave only one name. 

"Suddenly the sky was orange," she said. 

The refinery is expected to receive about 600,000 barrels of Rabi crude from Gabon onboard tanker Aristodimos on April 10, shipping data on Refinitiv Eikon showed.