A number of politicians and country figures gathering in Jakarta on Thursday questioned the recently approved participation of US giant oil company ExxonMobil in the development of the East Natuna gas block in Riau.
Former vice president Jusuf Kalla said the unfairness was evident in the sharing of profits between Indonesia and the US firm as specified in past contracts; and demanded that Indonesia’s state oil and gas company PT Pertamina, not ExxonMobil, be the operator of the gas project.
“Don’t forget that since we’ve had [upstream oil and gas regulator] BPMigas, Pertamina has become a technical company, no longer a regulator. What is [Pertamina] if not an operator?” Kalla
told a discussion titled “The East Natuna Block and National Sovereignty” at the House of Representatives in Jakarta.
Kalla also dismissed statements that Indonesia could not afford the cost of exploration in the gas field due to financial and technology constraints, which had led to the decision for ExxonMobil to operate the block in the past, saying this was simply untrue.
Similar notions came from, among others, lawmakers Maruar Sirait of the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) and Satya W. Yudha of the Golkar Party, and former Regional Representatives Council member Marwan Batubara, who also addressed Thursday’s discussion.
Last month, Pertamina appointed ExxonMobil, along with Malaysia’s Petronas and France’s Total SA, as its partners in the development of the giant gas project, set to go on stream by 2021.
The East Natuna gas field, formerly known as the Natuna D. Alpha, has been an important project for Indonesia due to its huge gas reserves. Located in the South China Sea, the block is estimated to contain 46 trillion cubic feet of gas, making it the biggest gas reserve in Asia.