Down to Earth No. 56, February 2003

BP and Pertamina in pipeline safety row

The British oil company BP has been accused of negligence in maintaining gas collection pipes at its offshore Pagerungan gas field near Madura in East Java. The president of state oil company Pertamina, Baihaki Hakim, said in January that BP should have anticipated a possible gas leak but had "failed to deal with it". The leaks forced BP to shut down five gas fields in the Pagerungan contract area, reducing gas supply to Java-based industries to 100,000 million cubic feet per day from 180,000 million cf/d. According to a report in the Jakarta Post, BP said the leaks occurred because a number of pipes were "worn out" and promised to fix them in 20 days. Baihaki said the government should not extend BP's contract to manage the Pagerungan field when it expires because this incident showed that BP was not fully committed to ensuring the gas supply in East Java.

Baihaki Kahim's angry outburst may well be inspired by a desire to get even with BP for an earlier row over pipeline safety, in which BP publicly embarrassed Pertamina. In October last year, BP warned that it would be forced to shut down gas supplies unless the state-owned company took immediate action to repair parts of an underwater pipeline which conducts gas from Pagerungan to East Java. Pertamina operates and is responsible for the upkeep of the 440 km pipeline, sections of which had come adrift from the seabed. Pertamina claimed that BP was exaggerating safety concerns and said it would deal with the problem without shutting down supplies.

Both incidents will raise further questions over BP's commitment to safety in other projects (Pertamina is BP's partner in West Papua's Tangguh project, which BP wants to promote as a model of corporate social responsibility). Concerns over safety already extend far beyond Indonesia and West Papua. In January, the British newspaper, The Independent, reported two fatal accidents last year - at BP's operations in Alaska and on a North Sea oil platform off Norway. Safety complaints in Alaska have led to a formal investigation by US government regulators and the Norwegian Petroleum Directorate issued a severe reprimand to BP citing "many and collective violations of health, environmental and safety standards." One of Britain's leading ethical investment funds, Henderson Global Investors, has announced it will sell millions of pounds of BP shares. Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth have both called for ethical investors to drop BP altogether.

(Source: The Independent 23/Jan/03; Reuters 3/Oct/02; Jakarta Post 13/Jan/03 and others.)

Recent reports on BP

  • Ecologist Cover story: 'Bullet Proof'on a visit to the Tangguh project, Papua, by K.Wilson;

  • Tapol Bulletin 169-170, Jan/Feb 2003, 'BP in West Papua: the Tangguh Project';

  • BPColombian pipeline subsidiaries have driven peasants off their land, A.Higginbottom, Colombia Solidarity Campaign;

  • Some common concerns, Imagining BP's Azerbaijan-Georgia-Turkey Pipelines System, Platform et al. Contact

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