Mud volcano in Java may continue to erupt for months and possibly years

Jan 24, 2007

The first scientific report into the causes and impact of Lusi, the Indonesian mud volcano, reveals that the 2006 eruption will continue to erupt and spew out between 7,000 and 150,000 cubic metres of mud a day for months, if not years to come, leaving at least 10 km2 around the volcano vent uninhabitable for years and over 11,000 people permanently displaced.

The paper by a Durham University-led team and published in the February issue of GSA Today, reveals that the eruption was almost certainly manmade and caused by the drilling of a nearby exploratory borehole looking for gas, reinforcing the possible explanation in a UN report from July last year.

The mud volcano, known locally as ‘Lusi’, has been erupting for 2394 days and has continued to spew between 7,000 and 150,000 cubic metres of mud out every day, destroying infrastructure, razing four villages and 25 factories. 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. It first erupted on 29 May 2006 in the Porong subdistrict of Sidoarjo in Eastern Java, close to Indonesia’s second city of Surabaya.

The team of mud volcano and pressure experts, who analysed satellite images of the area for their study, propose that a local region around the central volcano vent will collapse to form a crater. In addition an area of at least the dimensions of the flow (10km2) will probably sag over the next few months and years.

Seepage of mud and water are common on earth but usually a preventable hazard when exploring for oil and gas.

Mud volcano expert, Professor Richard Davies of Durham University’s Centre for Research into Earth Energy Systems (CeREES) comments: "It is standard industry procedure that this kind of drilling requires the use of steel casing to support the borehole, to protect against the pressure of fluids such as water, oil or gas. In the case of Lusi a pressured limestone rock containing water (a water aquifer) was drilled while the lower part of the borehole was exposed and not protected by casing. As a result rocks fractured and a mix of mud and water worked its way to the surface. Our research brings us to the conclusion that the incident was most probably the result of drilling."

"Lusi is similar to a 'blow-out' (eruption of water at the surface) that happened offshore of Brunei in 1979. Just as is most probably the case with Lusi, the Brunei event was caused by drilling and it took an international oil company almost 30 years and 20 relief wells and monitoring before the eruption stopped."

Prof. Davies continued: "Up to now scientists have known relatively little about mud volcanoes and Lusi has provided the first opportunity for experts to study one from birth onwards. Our work offers a clearer understanding of how they are created and what happens when they erupt. We hope that the new insights will prove useful to the oil and gas industry, which frequently encounters pressurised fluid in rock strata that could, if not controlled, force their way to the surface during exploration drilling. Ultimately we hope that what we learn about this incident can help insure it is less likely to happen again."

The team from Durham, Cardiff and Aberdeen Universities and GeoPressure Technology Ltd, an Ikon Science company, has essentially discounted the effect of an earthquake which occurred in the region two days prior to the mud volcano as the cause of the eruption. This is based on the time-lapse between the earthquake and the eruption, the fact that there were no other mud volcanoes in the region following the earthquake and through comparison with other geological examples.

Source: Geological Society of America

Explore further: Submarine data used to investigate turbulence beneath Arctic ice

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Canada looks east-west to ship oil after Keystone veto

2 hours ago

After US President Barack Obama vetoed a bill to expedite construction of the Keystone XL pipeline Tuesday, petroleum producers are expected to turn to Canadian routes to ship oil internationally, but hurdles ...

Internet access limited in developing world

3 hours ago

Most people in the developing world do not use the Internet, with access limited by high costs, poor availability and a lack of relevant content, a Facebook report said Tuesday.

Manhattan Project physicist Ralph Nobles dies at 94

3 hours ago

(AP)—Ralph Nobles, a nuclear physicist who worked on the Manhattan Project and later led efforts to save thousands of acres of San Francisco Bay wetlands from development, died following complications of pneumonia, according ...

In Japan, robot dogs are for life - and death

3 hours ago

Incense smoke wafts through the cold air of the centuries-old Buddhist temple as a priest chants a sutra, praying for the peaceful transition of the souls of the departed.

US sees little severe weather so far in 2015

3 hours ago

(AP)—While a big chunk of the nation deals with snow and ice, the U.S. is poised to end January and February with the fewest bouts of severe weather in decades.

Recommended for you

Antarctica's retreating ice may re-shape Earth

Feb 27, 2015

(AP)—From the ground in this extreme northern part of Antarctica, spectacularly white and blinding ice seems to extend forever. What can't be seen is the battle raging underfoot to re-shape Earth.

The sun has more impact on the climate in cool periods

Feb 27, 2015

The activity of the Sun is an important factor in the complex interaction that controls our climate. New research now shows that the impact of the Sun is not constant over time, but has greater significance ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.