Indonesia's Pertamina says plugging undersea oil spill in Java will take weeks

JAKARTA (Reuters) - Indonesia’s state energy firm Pertamina said on Thursday it will take weeks to plug an oil spill at its Offshore North West Java (ONWJ) facility, which has reached the northern coast of Java island.

Slideshow ( 2 images )

The incident started on July 12, when natural gas was released during drilling at one of its wells in the ONWJ platform on the Java sea, Pertamina’s upstream director Dharmawan Samsu told a news conference.

Three days later the company declared an emergency and on July 16, a layer of oil began to rise to the surface of the sea in addition to the gas bubbles, he said.

The oil spill has reached villages on the coast of the Karawang area, West Java, 2 kilometers (1.2 miles) away from the facility, he said.

It will take an estimated 10 weeks from the declaration of emergency to stop the oil and gas leakage, or another 8 weeks from Thursday, he said.

“For Pertamina, the most important thing is the safety of our employees and residents (in the affected area) and the environment, to make sure there is as little environmental impact as possible from this,” Samsu said.

Twenty-nine ships have been deployed to patrol the area, which are also on standby for firefighting, he said, adding that the firm has put up a 3.5-km containment boom at sea and another 3-km boom and 700 meters of fish nets along the shoreline.

Boots & Coots, a well control company that handled a similar spill in the Gulf of Mexico, has been hired to help control the situation, Samsu said.

Pertamina has set up an emergency center in Karawang and promised to compensate fishermen, he said.

“The cause is still being thoroughly and deeply investigated. Early indications showed pressure anomalies that resulted in gas bubbles, followed by oil spill,” Samsu said.

The incident happened at a well that was yet to come into production, which had been expected to produce 3,000 barrels per day (bpd) of crude and 20-40 million standard cubic feet per day (mmscfd) of natural gas in September, Samsu said.

There were two other wells in the field that Pertamina initially wanted to reactivate, but the company has now isolated them awaiting the result of the investigation, he said.

(This story has been refiled to remove extraneous words from paragraph one).

Reporting by Wilda Asmarini; Writing by Gayatri Suroyo; Editing by Jan Harvey