Java Mud Volcano Summary

I haven’t posted anything about the mud volcano in Indonesia, but it has been an interesting story and an ongoing one as well. It is usually referred to as the Java mud volcano, or perhaps more correctly the Sidoarjo mud flow referring to the nearby Sidoarjo City in East Java Province. Over 15,000 people have been displaced by the event.

The mud erruption has been happening for over one year, it started on May 29, 2006 seemingly as a result of a gas exploration drill rig operated by PT Lapindo Brantas penetrated into an overpressurized limestone formation although the company cites a 6.3 magnitude earthquake 2 days prior as the culprit. Obviously Lapindo and other associated companies are in some serious legal trouble. It is the largest mud volcanoe ever observed, and It has had a devastating effect on the local population, including burying as many as 4 villages and 20 factories. Something like 120,000 cubic meters of mud equivalent to 48 Olympic-sized swimming pools errupts every day.

There have been no shortage of attempts to stop or divert the flows. Initial mitigation was to construct dykes to contain and/or divert the mud flow. Then in October, the Indonesian President authorized the pumping of the mud into a nearby river where it would go out to sea.

In February of 2007, concrete balls chained together were used to attempt to stop the flow. It succeeded in stopping the flow for 30 minutes, but did not seem to have any permanent effect. A recent proposal by a group of Japanese engineers is to construct a steel and concrete dam 15 stories high to eventually choke off the mud under its own weight.

And there has been no shortage of magicians, prayers, and people performing other spiritual rites to try a more spiritual/supernatural approach to stop the mud, but they have been banned from doing those things because apparently they just make the situation worse.

If I hear of any additional info, I’ll update this post with a note at the top and the recent developments near the bottom. 

Images show the source of the mud flow, before and after. Acquired and processed by CRISP, National University of Singapore IKONOS image © CRISP 2004