Tons of palm oil by-product spills into Padang waters
(CD) At least 50 tons of palm oil by-product spilled into the waters of Teluk Bayur in Padang, West Sumatra, on Tuesday after a pipe ruptured on a tank belonging to private palm oil refinery company PT Wira Inno Mas.
As concerns grow over the incident’s impact on the surrounding environment, 50 Navy personnel from Navy Headquarters II Padang and officials from stateowned port operator PT Pelindo II in Teluk Bayur have scrambled to assist Wira Inno Mas in its clean-up efforts.
The spillage of Palm Fatty Acid Distillate (PFAD), a lower-value by-product from the refining of edible palm oil, came from a leak in a tank that contained 750 tons of PFAD, about a quarter of the tank’s 3,000-ton capacity.
“As our officers inspected the tanks, they suddenly heard the sound of something breaking and water flowing,” Wira Inno Mas operations manager Hendra Leo said on Friday.
“Upon investigating the noise, they found a leak in one of the tanks,” he added.
The company immediately declared an emergency and launched mitigation efforts to address the situation.
Some 500 tons of PFAD inside the damaged tank have so far been transferred to another storage facility, and the 200 tons contained by a bund wall and gutter have been siphoned with pumps, according to Hendra.
The company has also installed a temporary floating barrier — known as a containment boom — on the waters to contain the spill, and immediate rented 16 boats from local fishermen to gather or transfer the spilled PFAD to a nearby basin owned by Pelindo II.
The nature of PFAD, which easily freezes when exposed to air and floats on water, has helped in mitigating the spill, the company claimed.
“We have collected 30 tons of spillage contained in the oil boom. We are also doing our best to collect the remaining 20 tons,” Hendra said.
Following the incident, the company halted 50 percent of its activities and is still calculating its losses.
It is also investigating the cause of the leak and is mulling a plan to inspect the condition of all of its tanks to ascertain whether or not the leak was caused by the two earthquakes, measuring 6 and 4.2 on the Richter scale, that hit Padang in the past two months.
The West Sumatra Marine Resources and Fisheries Agency immediately deployed a team to assess the incident’s impact on the area’s marine ecosystem.
“From our initial observation, we found that about 2 hectares of ocean surface is affected [by the leak],” said agency head Yosmeri.
“However, we have yet to ascertain the exact damage [caused by the incident] as our team is still gathering data.”
Environmental group Indonesian Forum for the Environment’s (Walhi) West Sumatra office wasted no time in calling on the provincial administration to provide details of the accident, and has accused Wira Inno Mas of negligence.
“The West Sumatra administration needs to act sternly in this case by evaluating the company’s environmental permit,” said Uslaini, head of Wahli’s West Sumatra chapter.
He also urged local authorities to conduct an environmental audit for a comprehensive map of the impact of the spill.
Arguably the country’s largest case of marine pollution occurred in 2009 following an explosion at the Montara oil and gas field in the Timor Sea.
The incident caused an oil spill that went on for 74 days, grossly impacting the area’s marine resources and the livelihoods of hundreds of fishermen from East Nusa Tenggara (NTT).
The rig belonged to Thailandbased oil and gas company PTTEP Australasia.
In May this year, the government finally filed a landmark lawsuit against the company, seeking Rp 27.5 trillion (US$ 2 billion) in compensation.
Palm Fatty Acid Destillate (PFAD) has spilled into Teluk Bayur The ruptured tank contained 750 tons of PFAD