Haze shuts down Indonesia oil wells, As Chevron hit hardest as smog sweeps across Sumatra

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A CHOKING haze caused by forest and plantation fires is forcing oil companies across Indonesia to close down wells, cutting production by an estimated 12,000 bbl/d.

HazelAccording to SKKMigas, the country’s oil and gas regulator, hundreds of wells have been closed due to poor air quality, while limited visibility has halted construction projects. The biggest production loss has come from Chevron’s Rokan project, where a total of 573 wells have been shut down since 11 March.

“This condition is very alarming,” says SKKMigas spokesperson Handoyo Budi Santoso. “If it continues like this, national oil production will come under threat.”

Each year, thousands of forest fires are lit deliberately across the Riau Province on the Indonesian island of Sumatra to clear the land for planting. This illegal ‘slash-and-burn’ practice engulfs the trees and peat, unleashing a pall of smog that drifts across the region.

SKKMigas says that the pollution standard index (PSI) – used to quantify levels of smog – at Chevron’s operations has been at the maximum value of 500 for several days, and workers and their families have been evacuated. Similar levels have been found at projects operated by Indonesia’s state-owned energy company Pertamina.

“From the health and safety point of view, this thick haze is clearly not safe for workers,” says Handoyo. “We hope all can work together to combat this situation, so that the disruption to production does not last long.”