The government appears to be ignoring the “elephant in the room” in widespread oil theft cases across the nation following an explosion near an oil pipeline in South Sumatra last week blamed on illegal taps, an expert has said.
Indonesian energy think tank ReforMiner Institute executive director Pri Agung Rakhmanto said on Monday that the government was “not serious” and “underestimating” the rampant oil theft cases in Indonesia.
“In Indonesia, illegal taps cause losses of at least 2,000 to 3,000 barrels of oil per day. The government does not appreciate efforts to boost oil production in our nation,” Pri Agung told The Jakarta Post.
He was responding to a recent statement by Energy and Mineral Resources Minister Jero Wacik in which he said no special measures were needed to eradicate rampant oil theft despite the deadly incident at the Tempino-Plaju pipeline in South Sumatra last week.
Wednesday’s 6 a.m. explosion in Bayung Lencir, South Sumatra, killed five people and injured dozens more after fire ignited spilled oil following attempted illegal taps. Local authorities brought the ensuing fire under control and finally extinguished it by 11 a.m.
As of Monday, the death toll had increased to eight people.
As of September this year, at least 373 oil theft cases occurred in Bayung Lencir alone, a 135 percent increase from last year’s 158 reported theft cases in the district, according to state-run energy firm
In an interview with the Post on Sunday, Jero said that the energy ministry had signed two memorandums of understanding with the National Police and the National Intelligence Agency (BIN) eliminating oil theft.
“Therefore, we just need to strengthen that cooperation,” he said.
When asked about the claim by upstream oil and gas regulator BPMigas that “security apparatus” may play a role in the unbridled cases of oil theft, Jero said there was no need to play “the blame game”.
“For such accusations, just report it to the police and leave it to them,” he said.
Pri Agung said that with the current rate of theft, losses suffered by Pertamina equaled the oil output capacity of one unit of its upstream business.
“How can the government have such little political will to preserve the oil output that we already have?” he said, adding that a “national movement is needed to eradicate the rampant oil theft cases”.
Pertamina has prepared US$90 million in investment to rebuild the Tempino-Plaju pipeline, which stretches 270 kilometers from Jambi to South Sumatra, according to its spokesman, Ali Mundakkir,
According to Ali, the pipeline, which delivers 11,000 barrels of oil per day to the Pelaju Refinery Complex in Palembang, has been in “terrible condition” due to illegal taps.
“We are hoping that the new pipeline, which we hope will be finished by the end of this year, can boost oil distribution capacity from the current 11,000 barrels of oil per day to 15,000,” he said.
Separately, Bobby Adhityo Rizaldi, a Golkar party lawmaker on House of Representatives Commission VII overseeing energy affairs, told the Post on Monday that the lawmakers would summon Pertamina this week to present an estimation of state losses due to illegal taps.