Save oil for export and use coal : Suharto

PRESIDENT Suharto has warned that Indonesia could become a net oil-importing country at the turn of the century if new oil reserves were not discovered.

“The country’s demand for oil continues to increase. If we cannot find new oil reserves, we will be compelled to import oil from other countries,” he said at the opening ceremony of a coal factory in Gresik, East Java, on Thursday.

To pre-empt the possibility of a future oil shortage, consumers in the country, in particular, households and small industries, would have to rely more on coal for their domestic energy needs, he added.

Coal reserves could meet the nation’s needs for the next 300 years.

Mr Suharto noted that Indonesia had at least 31 billion tonnes of coal deposits that were equivalent to about 120 billion barrels of oil.

He said: “Our coal reserves are large. We can still increase the use of coal.”

At the same time, he said, Indonesia would continue to export its unrenewable fuels such as oil and gas as much as possible.

“Oil and gas have a high economic value but they are unrenewable resources,” he was quoted as saying in news reports here. “Therefore we will use it as much for the people’s welfare.”

According to government figures, Indonesian coal production was expected to increase to 120 million tonnes by 2008, from 45 million tonnes in 1995.

The nation produces about 1.57 million barrels of crude oil per day.

Officials at Indonesia’s National Atomic Energy Agency (Batan) told The Straits Times that Indonesia could be a net oil-importer by 2010.

“Declining oil reserves could harm the economy. Our aim is still to use oil as an export commodity,” said one official.

Batan chief Iyos Subki said that the state-run agency was recommending a greater “diversification of fuel resources” to meet the future energy needs of the country.

Oil now provides 60 per cent of the country’s energy requirement, and coal 25 per cent.

The remaining needs are met by other sources such as gas and hydro-electricity.

Said Mr Iyos: “We cannot depend on two or three kinds of fuel only. This could speed up the depletion rate of such resources.

“To guarantee energy security, we need to diversify and look at other sources of power.”

Meanwhile, The Indonesian Observer reported yesterday that the state-owned Pertamina was optimistic that its huge Natuna gas project would hit its first production in 2003.

Natuna is one of the world’s biggest gas fields with reserves of 6 trillion cubic metres.

Actual recoverable reserves are estimated at 1.3 trillion cubic metres.

A Pertamina official was quoted by the paper as saying that the estimate of reserves was likely to rise once a planned two-year seismic test was completed.

BLACK GOLD

Although coal reserves could meet the nation’s needs for the next 300 years, “declining oil reserves could harm the economy. Our aim is still to use oil as an export commodity”, said an official at Indonesia’s National Atomic Energy Agency.

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