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  Yahoo News 20 Mar 07
Halt of Indonesia's 'mud volcano' baffles experts

Yahoo News 15 Mar 07
Indonesia 'mud volcano' to be fed more concrete balls

14 Feb 07
Indonesia Energy Firm, President Sued for Mud Flow
Story by Ahmad Pathoni

Yahoo News 24 Jan 07
Indonesian mud volcano caused by drilling, say scientists

PARIS (AFP) - A mud volcano that has erupted in Indonesia, forcing the evacuation of thousands of villagers, was most probably caused by drilling for gas, according to the first published scientific study into the phenomenon.

The eruption "appears to have been triggered by drilling of overpressured porous and permeable limestones at depth of around 2,830 metres (7,735 feet) below the surface," says the study, conducted by British experts and published in a US journal.

It adds that the volcano has been disgorging between 7,000 and 150,000 cubic metres (245,000 and 5.25 million cubic feet) of mud every day. Such pressures, coupled to the local geology, suggest the flow "will continue for many months and possibly years to come," it warns.

In the coming months, sag-like subsidence several kilometers (miles) wide will occur, and around the main vent there is likely to be "more dramatic collapse," forming a crater, it adds.

An area of at least 10 square kilometers (3.9 square miles) around the volcano will be uninhabitable for years, and over 11,000 people will be permanently displaced, it says.

The research is conducted by a team led by Richard Davies, a professor at the University of Durham's Centre for Research into Earth Energy Systems in northeastern England. It appears in the February issue of GSA Today, a peer-assessed journal of the Geological Society of America (GSA).

The volcano, known locally as "Lusi," has been spewing steaming mud since May 29 last year, submerging four villages, fields and factories. It erupted from a gas well near Surabaya, East Java, that was operated by Lapindo Brantas Inc. As many as 13,000 people have fled their homes.

The British experts analysed satellite images of the area to make their study. They say that seepage of mud and water are usually a preventable hazard when exploring for oil and gas.

"It is standard industry procedure that this kind of drilling requires the use of steel casing to support the borehole, to protect against the pressure of fluids such as water, oil or gas," Davies said in a press release.

"In the case of Lusi, a pressured limestone rock containing water -- a water aquifer -- was drilled while the lower part of the borehole was exposed and not protected by casing. "As a result, rocks fractured and a mix of mud and water worked its way to the surface. Our research brings us to the conclusion that the incident was most probably the result of drilling."

Davies said the case in Indonesia was similar to a blowout that happened offshore of Brunei in 1979.

"Just as is most probably the case with Lusi, the Brunei event was caused by drilling and it took an international oil company almost 30 years and 20 relief wells and monitoring before the eruption stopped," he added.

Last week, Indonesia's coordinating minister for social welfare, Aburizal Bakrie, whose family firm controls Lapindo Brantas, said the volcano was a "natural disaster" unrelated to the drilling activities.

"It is not because of the Lapindo drill case but it is because of the quake," he said, referring to a May 27 temblor near the ancient city of Yogyakarta that killed around 6,000 people.

But this scenario is ruled out by the study. It concludes that the quake was not to blame, mainly because two days elapsed before mud volcano erupted, and no other mud volcanoes occurred in the region after the temblor.

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono last month ordered Lapindo to pay 3.8 trillion rupiah (420.7 million dollars) in compensation and costs related to the mud flow.

PlanetArk 14 Feb 07
Indonesia Energy Firm, President Sued for Mud Flow
Story by Ahmad Pathoni

JAKARTA - A leading Indonesian environmental group has sued an energy firm and President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono over a mud volcano that has displaced more than 10,000 people in Java, its chairman said on Tuesday.

The torrent of hot mud has been flowing since an oil drilling accident in May and has inundated entire villages in Sidoarjo, an industrial suburb of East Java's Surabaya, Indonesia's second-largest city.

Numerous attempts to cap or curb the flow have failed and it has become a political and environmental issue, with the government under fire from critics for what they say were lax safety standards behind the accident and for not doing enough to resolve the situation.

Environmental watchdog Walhi filed the suit in a Jakarta court on Monday and named the company blamed for the mudflow, PT Lapindo Brantas, its partners, Yudhoyono and other local officials as defendants, said the group's chairman, Chalid Muhammad.

"The mud flow has damaged the local ecosystem and removed residents from their villages. The current effort is not effective and its funding is controlled by Lapindo," he told Reuters.

The suit demanded that Yudhoyono require Lapindo and its partners to bear all the costs for stopping the mud flow, compensating victims and restoring the environment.

Lapindo and PT Energi Mega Persada Tbk, which indirectly controls it, dispute whether the mud flow was caused by the drilling and also whether Lapindo alone should shoulder the cost.

Energi is owned by the Bakrie Group, controlled by the family of Indonesia's chief social welfare minister, Aburizal Bakrie. Lapindo holds a 50-percent stake in the Brantas block from where the mud is gushing.

Energi International Tbk holds 32 percent and Australia-based Santos Ltd the remaining 18 percent.

Yudhoyono said in December that Lapindo would have to pay US$420 million to victims and for efforts to stop the mud. Lapindo has agreed to pay 2.5 million rupiah (US$276.5) per square metre for swamped land and damaged buildings, and 120,000 rupiah per square metre for inundated rice fields.

The suit also demanded the president set up a team with more powers to investigate the disaster and mobilise expertise to stop it, the environment group said. The court has not set a date for the first hearing.

Yahoo News 15 Mar 07
Indonesia 'mud volcano' to be fed more concrete balls

A bid to plug an Indonesian "mud volcano" with concrete balls after its toxic flow displaced 15,000 people is to use thousands more of them than planned, an official said Thursday. The plan involves dropping chains of four heavy balls into the crater, and workers have nearly deposited an initial target of 374 chains -- but hundreds more are to be sent into the steaming funnel.

"The plan is to drop 500 more chains," said Rudi Novrianto, a spokesman for the government team implementing the initiative, which was devised by Indonesian scientists and hopes to slow the mudflow by 50-70 percent.

Some experts are sceptical about the plan's chances of success, with mud still flowing from the crater near Indonesia's second-largest city of Surabaya.

Geologists have also said that the first batch of concrete balls slid far deeper into the crater than expected.

Estimates had suggested 125,000 to 160,000 cubic metres of mud flowed from the hole daily, but Novrianto said Wednesday that the flow had decreased by around 80,000 to 90,000 cubic metres.

However, he added the team was trying to devise more accurate ways of measuring the flow. The assessment is currently based partly on how much mud is held back behind emergency dykes, which keep breaking and spilling the sludge.

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono last week ordered the effort to continue for another month. The government expects to spend around 370 million dollars tackling the phenomenon.

About 3,000 residents from the crater's site in Sidoarjo, East Java, who have yet to be compensated after the mud swamped their homes, plan to demonstrate at the presidential palace in Jakarta, reports have said.

The hot mud began bubbling up from deep underground in late May last year after exploratory gas drilling at the site by local firm PT Lapindo Brantas. The sludge has inundated some 600 hectares (1,500 acres), including many homes, and threatens to swamp a key railway, which is to be rerouted away from the danger zone.

Experts are unsure how long the crater will spew mud if left unchecked, with some suggesting it could be years.

Yahoo News 20 Mar 07
Halt of Indonesia's 'mud volcano' baffles experts

An Indonesian "mud volcano" that has displaced 15,000 people briefly stopped spewing toxic sludge for the first time in more than nine months, baffling scientists, an official said Tuesday.

"The flow of mud coming out of the crater suddenly stopped for about 30 minutes shortly before noon (0500 GMT) on Monday," said Rudi Novrianto, a spokesman for the government team trying to plug the flow. "None of our team members knows for sure what happened and we are still trying to determine how it happened," Novrianto said.

The steaming crater, located near Indonesia's second-largest city of Surabaya, merely bubbled during the pause, he said. The temporary hiatus was the first since the mud hole began spewing sludge in May.

Indonesian experts are trying to slow the flow by dropping chains of heavy concrete balls into the funnel, a bold plan some say will not work.

The pause was probably unrelated to the hundreds of chains already dropped into the mud hole, Bagus Endar Bachtiar Nurhandoko, an official from the team battling the crater, told the Kompas newspaper. He said the brief halt may have occurred because parts of the funnel collapsed, creating a temporary obstruction that was eventually cleared by pressurised gas in the crater.

"We were worried that an explosion would follow, but it turned out not to be the case," Nurhandoko was quoted as saying.

Experts have already dropped an initial target of 374 chains, each comprising four concrete balls, into the crater. They hope to narrow the funnel and obstruct the sludge in a bid to curb the flow by up to 70 percent. Another 500 chains are to be sunk into the mud hole, but Novrianto said the team was still awaiting a fresh supply of concrete balls.

Some of the experts working to calm the crater have said the chains appear to have slowed the mudflow. They are working to confirm the assessment with official measurements.

The hot mud began bubbling up from deep underground in late May last year after exploratory gas drilling at the site by a local firm, PT Lapindo Brantas. The sludge has inundated some 600 hectares (1,500 acres), including many homes and factories, leaving thousands of people homeless and jobless. The mud also threatens to swamp a key railway, which is to be rerouted away from the danger zone.

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