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Five Years On, Java Still Grapples with Mud Volcano

Five years after a mud volcano burst to life on May 29, 2006, burying the homes of 13,000 families under an estimated 30 meters of mud, there is little indication that life will ever return to normal for the farmers and factory workers that once inhabited this corner of East Java. While the community fights for compensation, scientists are still trying to understand the mysterious volcano that the locals call 'Lusi.'
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The world's largest mud volcano, which left 13,000 families homeless, is likely to continue erupting for another 26 years, researchers have estimated.
It first erupted back in May 2006, and - at its peak - was spewing 180,000 cubic metres of mud a day, equivalent to 50 Olympic-sized swimming pools.

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New Evidence May Reopen Lapindo Mud Case

In response to new report by British geologist Richard Davies that said the Sidoarjo mudflow was caused by human error, East Java Police on Friday said reopening the case was a possibility.
On Thursday, a group led by experts from Britain's Durham University released new evidence in a paper published by the Marine and Petroleum Geology journal pointing out that the catastrophe was caused by an operating procedural error.
However, drilling firm PT Lapindo Brantas, a part of Golkar Party head Aburizal Bakrie's business empire, maintains in the same journal that the Lusi mud volcano was unleashed by an earthquake at Yogyakarta, 280 kilometers away and two days earlier.

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Mud volcano blamed on oil firm
Drilling for oil and gas caused the eruption of the Lusi mud volcano in Indonesia, a meeting of 74 leading geologists has concluded.
Lusi erupted in May 2006 and continues to spew out boiling mud, displacing around 30,000 people in East Java.
Drilling firm Lapindo Brantas deny their well 150m away was the trigger. They blame an earthquake 280km away.

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The worlds fastest-growing mud volcano is collapsing by up to three metres overnight, suggests new research.
As the second anniversary (May 29) of the eruption on the Indonesian island of Java approaches, scientists have found that the volcano named Lusi could subside to depths of more than 140 metres with consequences for the surrounding environment.


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 The worlds fastest-growing mud volcano is collapsing and could subside to depths of more than 140 metres with consequences for the surrounding environment, according to new research.
As the second anniversary (May 29) of the eruption on the Indonesian island of Java approaches, scientists have also found that the centre of the volcano named Lusi is collapsing by up to three metres overnight.
Such sudden collapses could be the beginning of a caldera - a large basin-shaped volcanic depression - according to the research team, from Durham University UK, and the Institute of Technology Bandung, in Indonesia.
Their findings, based on Global Positioning System (GPS) and satellite measurements, are due to be published in the journal Environmental Geology.
Lusi first erupted on May 29, 2006, in the Porong sub-district of Sidoarjo, close to Indonesias second city of Surabaya, East Java, and now covers seven square kilometres and is 20 metres thick.
In January 2007 Durham University published the first scientific report into the causes and impact of Lusi, revealing that the eruption was almost certainly manmade and caused by the drilling of a nearby exploratory borehole(1) looking for gas.
Fourteen people have been killed and 30,000 people have been evacuated from the area. More than 10,000 homes have been destroyed while schools, offices and factories have also been wiped out and a major impact on the wider marine and coastal environment is expected.
The researchers say the subsidence data could help determine how much of the local area will be affected by Lusi.
Their research used GPS and satellite data recorded between June 2006 and September 2007 that showed the area affected by Lusi had subsided by between 0.5 metres and 14.5 metres per year.
The scientists found that if Lusi continued to erupt for three to 10 years at the constant rates measured during 2007 then the central part of the volcano could subside by between 44 metres and 146 metres 26 metres longer than a football pitch.
They propose the subsidence is due to the weight of mud and collapse of rock strata due to the excavation of mud from beneath the surface.
Their study has also found that while some parts of Sidoarjo are subsiding others are rising suggesting that the Watukosek fault system has been reactivated due to the eruption.

In the two years since she first erupted Lusi has continued to grow. Our research is fundamental if we are to understand the long-term effects of the mud volcano on the local and wider environment and population. Sidoarjo is a populated region and is collapsing as a result of the birth and growth of Lusi. This could continue to have a significant environmental impact on the surrounding area for years to come. If we establish how long the volcano will continue to erupt for then the subsidence data will allow us to assess the area that will ultimately be affected by this disaster. This could have implications for future plans aimed at minimising the volcanos overall impact - Co-author Professor Richard Davies, of Durham Universitys Centre for Research into Earth Energy Systems (CeREES).

Source: Durham University


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A leading expert today repeated his assertion that an Indonesian mud volcano was almost certainly manmade despite a new study claiming the eruption might have been triggered by an earthquake.
Professor Richard Davies of Durham Universitys Centre for Research into Earth Energy Systems (CeREES), said the volcano, known locally as Lusi, was most likely caused by the drilling of a nearby exploratory borehole (1) looking for gas.
He reiterated the findings of a Durham University-led study, first published in the February issue of US Journal GSA Today, following publication of a new paper led by the University of Oslo which said the eruption in May 2006 might have been caused by an earthquake that occurred two days earlier.
The Durham-led research discounted the effect of the earthquake as a cause of the eruption.

 There were several problems with the exploration well prior to the eruption of the mud volcano, but it was when they started to pull the drill bit out of the hole that they probably sucked gas and water into the wellbore. We have calculated that a water or gas influx would have caused a critical increase in the pressure in the hole, sufficient to fracture the rock strata underground. It is very unlikely that the Yoyakarta earthquake had a significant role to play in the development of the mud volcano. We still maintain that the mud volcano was most likely triggered by operations during drilling. There is no need to evoke an earthquake trigger for this - Professor Richard Davies, of Durham Universitys Centre for Research into Earth Energy Systems (CeREES).

Lusi first erupted on May 29 2006 in the Porong sub-district of Sidoarjo in Eastern Java, close to Indonesias second city of Surabaya.
The volcano has continued to spew out an estimated 150,000 cubic metres of mud every day and now covers an area of 10 square kilometres.
Around 20,000 to 30,000 people have lost their homes and factories have been destroyed. Thirteen people have also died as a result of a rupture in a natural gas pipeline that lay underneath one of the holding dams built to retain the mud.

(1) The borehole is owned by Indonesian oil and gas company Lapindo Brantas.

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A massive mud flow that has displaced some 15,000 people in Indonesia's Java island halted briefly for the first time in 10 months, officials say.
The mud stopped flowing for around 30 minutes on Monday morning, members of the team trying to plug the flow said.
They have been dropping hundreds of concrete balls into the mouth of the hole to stem the eruption.
Some scientists say the mud flow was likely triggered by gas drilling, but the gas company blames an earthquake.

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A huge flow of hot mud pouring out of an exploratory oil well in Indonesia will be treated and channelled into the sea.

Authorities have been struggling for more than two months to plug the leak near the well just south of Indonesia's second city of Surabaya. The noxious mud flow has displaced about 8 000 people from their homes.

"To overcome this we will expand the area for the mud, second we will process the mud to naturalise it and the water can flow either to the sea or to the river. We hope we can handle that process in three months" - Rachmat Witoelar, environment minister.

Marking the latest trouble from the mud, a watershed protecting two villages was breached on Thursday, sending dark-grey water up to chest height gushing into the area.
On Tuesday, a major toll road was forced to close after the hot mud engulfed a large section of the highway.
Hospital officials say noxious fumes from the hot, thick sludge have left scores gasping for breath or vomiting.
The torrent has inundated swathes of land in four villages and contaminated many shrimp ponds dotting coastal Sidoarjo regency, famous in Indonesia for its shrimp crackers.
An oil industry watchdog official has said the mudflow that began at the end of May could have been triggered by a crack at about 1 800m in the Banjar Panji-1 exploration well, operated by Indonesia's Lapindo Brantas.

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