Taskforce set up to look into abandoned oil wells in Miri, says Sarawak minister

One of the well sites on Canada Hill, fenced off by Shell following the discovery of the LNG leakage. — Borneo Post pic
One of the well sites on Canada Hill, fenced off by Shell following the discovery of the LNG leakage. — Borneo Post pic

MIRI, Sept 23 — A taskforce will be set up with the objective of ensuring that all 624 abandoned oil wells throughout Miri would not pose any danger to the public and also to the environment.

Transport Minister Datuk Lee Kim Shin said this taskforce, comprising experts from oil and gas (O&G) industries, would be chaired by the Miri Resident.

“Petronas, Shell and Petroleum Sarawak Bhd (Petros) will form this taskforce.

“We will also invite those from Curtin University Malaysia, who are experts in petroleum engineering and geophysics, to look into all the abandoned oil wells in Miri, particularly those up on Canada Hill that have been left abandoned for a long time,” he said when met by reporters after chairing a meeting on ‘Abandoned Oil Wells and Historical Places in Miri’, which took place at the Resident’s Office here yesterday.

Adding on, Lee said under the taskforce, the experts would obtain the data on the actual locality of these oil wells before going to the ground to conduct inspections.

“The taskforce will then submit all the reports pertaining to these abandoned wells, as well as recommendations, to the state government,” he said.

The plan to set up the taskforce, said Lee, came about following recent news reports on one of the abandoned oil well sites on Canada Hill emitting liquefied natural gas (LPG) due to leakage.

He said the state government was fully aware of the news, adding that he had received calls and messages from concerned Mirians – some of whom had suggested that the oil well sites be cordoned off.

In this respect, he commended the Fire and Rescue Department for its quick action in making these areas off-limits to the public, and also Shell for fencing up these sites.

Being the site for first oil well in the country, Oil Well No 1 – or more famously known as the ‘Grand Old Lady’, Canada Hill is home to Miri Petroleum Museum, Kampung Haji Wahed and Kampung Lereng Bukit.

Lee said looking back to oil exploration and production in Miri, the Oil Well No 1 was first drilled in 1910 and remained operational until Oct 31, 1972.

The minister said although Shell had relinquished its onshore oil production, the O&G group made a point to preserve the oil well sites by sealing them off.

On the leakage, he suspected long years of erosion to be the culprit.

On yesterday’s meeting, Lee remarked: “We had a good discussion and explore ways to ensure that all these abandoned oil wells would be sealed properly.

“We acknowledge the danger posed by any spillage and gas leakage, especially to the people living around these areas.

“We advise members of the public against going to LNG leakage areas. You must also notify the Miri Resident’s Office immediately should you encounter such situation.”

Other topic of discussion was the suggestion to cordon off the bomb shelters at Canada Hill, which had created a buzz recently, said Lee.

In this regard, he also advised members of the public against going to the shelters, said to be among the remnants of the Second World War there.

“We suggest that the shelters be off-limits to the public, pending a proper study to be conducted by Sarawak Museum Department.”

The meeting also discussed the issue of vandalism at Piasau Bridge, said Lee.

“The Piasau Bridge has been gazetted as a heritage site but sadly, some metal parts of the structure have been found to be stolen.

“Nonetheless, we will look for funding to repair and maintain this bridge.”

The meeting was also attended by Assistant Minister of Tourism, Arts and Culture Datuk Sebastian Ting and acting Miri Resident Abdul Aziz Mohd Yusuf. — Borneo Post

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