KOTA KINABALU: Residents in Sabah, Lawas and around Temburong in Brunei were awakened from their sleep by a “massive” explosion of a gas pipeline earlier yesterday.
The shockwave reportedly could be felt “strongly” by people in Lawas town 40km away and they were shocked to see a spectular night sky lit up by an orange fireball that lasted for about two hours yesterday morning.
The incident was caused by the Petronas-owned Sabah-Sarawak gas pipeline (SSGP) fire in Bukit Beriwan, Lawas.
Petronas Carigali Sdn Bhd confirmed the incident which occurred about 2am yesterday.
The company said in a statement that the incident occurred at a location of the SSGP in the district of Lawas, Sarawak, about 135km from the Sabah Oil & Gas Terminal in Kimanis, Sabah, which is the starting point of the pipeline.
The fire has been extinguished. There was no injury reported and the incident has not affected any of the communities along the pipeline, the closest of which are located nine kilometres away from the incident area, said the company.
It added that the authorities have been informed and an investigation on the incident is being carried out.
Petronas will provide more information on the incident when it is in the position to do so, added the company.
The RM4.6 billion SSGP began transporting gas from Kimanis, Sabah to the Liquefied Matural Gas (LNG) complex in Bintulu, Sarawak last January.
Lawas Fire and Rescue station chief Mohd Shamlie Radae, who led the rescue operation with five personnel and two engines, said a call was received from the public at about 1.58am.
“We contacted Petronas to inform of the fire and they requested us to help vacate the area,” he said.
Upon arrival at the scene, the rescue team found there was no settlement or villages in the vicinity and proceeded to close the pipe’s valve.
“The team continues to monitor the scene of the incident until the fire was put off at about 3.48am,” he said,
Asked on why it took so long to reach the location, Mohd Shamlie said they were forced to use logging tracks to reach it.
Lawas acting police district chief ASP Mutang Nawat said Petronas had sent their technical team from Bintulu to investigate the cause of the incident.
According to Limbang fire chief Anuar Shazat Merdzuki, the explosion occurred at Bukit Beriwan, quite a distance away from the nearest settlement area.
He said when the fire and rescue team from Lawas arrived at the scene, the fire had been successfully put under control by a fire-fighting team from an oil and gas company and by the rain.
He added that the team took speedy action by closing the pipeline to stop further explosion.
“Although the fire was fully under control by 3.48am, we still had to cordon off the area to prevent the public from going into the area,” he said.
He revealed that his department with the cooperation of the oil and gas company would form an investigation team to inspect and determine the cause of explosion.
Meanwhile, Lawas acting police chief ASP Mutang Nawat said the explosion was believed to be caused by gas leakage from the pipeline.
He confirmed that there was no report of fatality or injuries.
However, according to a source, the explosion damaged an area of about 300 metres in radius and caused minor injuries to two oil palm plantation workers while they were patrolling on a motorcycle.
The source also said the motorcycle was completely burned.
Meanwhile, Sarawak PKR chief has demanded Petronas to conduct “a full and thorough” investigation into the cause of the explosion and make their findings public to placate the fears of people living along the pipeline.
Baru Bian said some 2,000 people living along, or close to, the pipeline in the most northern district of the state are now living in fear as the assurance the national petroleum company gave them before they constructed the pipeline years ago is now all very hollow.
“Is this pipeline safe. To me, it is unsafe. To them, it is very unsafe following what happened today.
“That is why Petronas has to come out and be open with what really happened,” the Ba Kelalan assemblyman said.
The pipeline is part of the Sabah-Sarawak Integrated Oil and Gas project – an integrated project that involved the development of offshore oil and gas fields in Sabah and Sarawak, and construction of onshore facilities to store, process and transport resources produced from the offshore fields.
The Sabah-Sarawak Gas pipeline (SSG) and the SOGT comprise the onshore portion of the project.
The 512km-long SSG pipeline is to transport the gas from the SOGT to the Petronas liquefied natural gas (LNG) complex in Bintulu where it will be converted into LNG.
Approximately 90km of the pipeline runs through Sabah with the remaining 422km in Sarawak.
According to the Petronas website, “the pipeline’s construction was slated for completion by March 2011, but has been progressing behind schedule”.