Top defense official scolds BPMigas over theft claims
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Deputy Defense Minister Sjafrie Sjamsoeddin pushed back against the claims of upstream oil and gas regulator BPMigas regarding the involvement of law enforcement and military officers in oil thefts thought to have been the cause of an explosion near an oil pipeline in Bayung Lencir, South Sumatra.
The defense official was not impressed by the comments of Gde Pradnyana, the operations deputy at BPMigas, who earlier said he believed law enforcement and military officers were complicit in a rash of oil thefts in the region.
“I think it would be more appropriate [for BPMigas] to officially file a report to the authorities instead of airing suspicions that can make other institutions feel uncomfortable,” he said in a text message sent to The Jakarta Post on Thursday.
On Wednesday, following an explosion near Kilometer 219 of the Tempino-Plaju pipeline, which delivers 11,000 barrels of crude oil per day to the Plaju refinery in Palembang, Pradnyana said that state energy firm PT Pertamina had already asked for help from high-ranking law enforcement officers to clamp down on continuing cases of oil theft.
However, according to Pradnyana, the attempt from Pertamina, which owns the pipeline through its upstream business unit Pertamina EP, was to no avail. He said company’s claims that “security officials” were likely behind a two-fold increase in the number of cases of oil theft in Bayung Lencir fell on deaf ears at the Office of the Coordinating Political, Legal and Security Affairs Minister.
When asked for comment, Coordinating Political, Legal and Security Affairs Minister Djoko Suyanto told the Post that “the ‘security apparatus’ was not the only one [who took part in oil theft].”
“Many people [civilians] are also involved in the theft,” he said, adding that his ministry had coordinated with local authorities to secure the pipeline and protect the needs of society.
At least five civilians were killed and 18 others were injured in the explosion at 6:10 a.m. on Wednesday. The ensuing blaze was extinguished around six hours later.
Deputy Energy and Mineral Resources Minister Rudi Rubiandini, who was sent to Bayung Lencir to lead the investigation of the incident, said on Thursday his team had concluded that oil theft was, indeed, the cause of the fire.
While Pertamina EP’s pipeline remained in tact despite the explosion, Rudi said his team found strong evidence that people had been trying to siphon oil from the pipeline into containers they stored
“Some locals tried to collect the oil seepage around 6:10 a.m. and that was when the oil caught fire. Based on the evidence so far, we strongly suspect the fire was caused by a cigarette butt, as during that time, there were no other activities that could have possibly triggered the inferno,” he said.
Separately, when asked whether the government would step up efforts to eradicate oil theft following the deadly accident, including the alleged involvement of the “security apparatus”, Energy and Mineral Resources Minister Jero Wacik said they would “leave the cases to the police”.
“Many people [civilians] are also involved in the theft.”