Sun, Feb 27, 2011 - Page 5 News List

Mud volcano to erupt for quarter-century

AFP, PARIS

A mud volcano that has displaced more than 13,000 Indonesian families will erupt for at least a quarter of a century, emitting belches of flammable gas through a deepening lake of sludge, scientists said on Thursday.

Underground pressure means the volcano “Lusi,” in Sidoarjo, East Java, is likely to gush grey mud until 2037, when volumes will become negligible, according to their computer model.

However, gas will continue to percolate through it for decades and possibly centuries to come.

“Our estimate is that it will take 26 years for the eruption to drop to a manageable level and for Lusi to turn into a slow bubbling volcano,” said team leader Richard Davies, a professor of Earth sciences at -Durham University in England.

Thirteen people were killed after Lusi erupted on May 29 2006.

At its height, the volcano gushed 40 Olympic-sized pools of mud each day, a rate that has now slowed to four per day, Davies said.

Its lake of mud has now smothered 12 villages to a depth of up to 15m and forced around 42,000 people from their homes.

The computer simulation is based on data from two existing commercial gas wells in the same region and on seismic reflection data that gives a picture of Lusi’s geological structure.

Lusi’s staying power means it will be a long-term but gradually less dramatic menace, he warned.

“You can’t return to the area. In fact, ultimately, probably the -impact of the volcano will increase,” -Davies said. “I think we’ve seen the most dramatic destruction, but it’s not the end of the story. These vents are still forming.”

The area is also slowly subsiding, and by 2037 could have formed a depression 95m to 475m deep.

The Indonesian government blames the eruption on an earthquake that struck days before, about 280km away from Lusi. However, foreign experts accuse a gas drilling company, Lapindo Brantas, of failing to place a protective casing around a section of its well.

As a result, the well hole was exposed to a “kick” from pressurized water and gas beneath the layer of mud, thus driving the grey, concrete-like fluid to the surface.

The study is released in the London-based Journal of the Geological Society.

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