Indonesia state firm says oil spill due to cracked underwater pipeline

FILE PHOTO - A sign of the state-owned Pertamina seen at a petrol station in Jakarta, Indonesia, February 17, 2016. REUTERS/Beawiharta

JAKARTA (Reuters) - Indonesia’s state oil company Pertamina said on Wednesday a cracked underwater pipeline was the cause of an oil spill off the coast of a port city on Borneo island that has prompted a major clean-up operation in the area.

Authorities rushed to contain the spill off Balikpapan, which started on Saturday and sparked a fire that killed four people at the weekend. TV footage has shown officials scooping up buckets of oil from the sea and dumping them in pits on shore.

“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.

“We are still calculating the volume of the leak and losses,” he said at a news conference in Balikpapan, adding the leak was of crude oil.

It was not immediately clear if the pipeline had been repaired.

A government official in Jakarta said it was unclear what had caused the leak.

“It could be that the pipeline is rusty or an anchor hit it,” said Djoko Siswanto, director general of oil and gas at the energy ministry.

The state energy firm said on Sunday initial tests showed the oil was marine oil used in boats.

Balikpapan city, a major mining and energy hub, declared a state of emergency on Monday, warning residents to stay away from the coast because the area was prone to fires.

Reporting by Wilda Asmarini; Writing by Kanupriya Kapoor; Editing by Ed Davies and Mark Potter