1. Education

Discuss in my forum

Andrew Alden

Watch Lusi Collapse

By February 5, 2013

Follow me on:

First posted 28 May 2008; update below

mud volcanoLusi is that big mud volcano that started erupting two years ago [2006] on Java. Unlike most mud volcanoes, Lusi was triggered by a drilling mishap and has buried several hectares of the town of Sidoarjo. An upcoming paper in Environmental Geology (see the press release) documents the beginning of Lusi's collapse. Eventually its central area will subside some 140 meters into the ground, creating a caldera. I've bookmarked Lusi in Google Maps for you — as new photos supersede old ones, we should be able to watch the process happen. In today's image, the collapse is not obvious. Chris Rowan at the Highly Allochthonous blog has some well-dated images, and it looks like Google Maps is more than a year old. He also has a fresh update discussing this same paper.

UPDATE: I've brought the links up to date but left the text of this post alone. Almost five years later, Lusi is not showing any obvious caldera. Knowledgeable people are invited to review and continue the comments, which have been most interesting. Also, for your reference, here are all of Chris Rowan's Lusi posts.
Mud volcano, Salton Sea — Geology Guide photo


May 30, 2008 at 4:35 pm
(1) John Marshall says:

There is no proof that drilling was the cause of the mud volcano. Local politicians are trying to place blame where none may exist. Mud volcanoes are common above subduction zones so this is more likely to be the cause.

June 17, 2008 at 10:26 am
(2) Bob says:

Hi John,

What would cause this location to preferentially erupt over any other location along this subduction zone? Based on the observation that the drilling was proximal to the eruption site and the coincidence of the timing of the first eruption with drilling, it seems that the drilling could be a likely cause. Few geologists ever believed that placing water reservoirs over fault zones could activate seismicity. Now there are at least a handful of well-documented occurrences of reservoir induced seismicity despite what politicians had to say.

October 11, 2008 at 7:42 am
(3) Ray says:

Hi there,

I’ve just finished a 18 month research and investigation project on the mud volcano, LUSI. The project was commissioned by a government agency (non-Indonesian), with a team made up of scientists, drilling experts and some shady government types.

The conclusion was that drilling did NOT cause the mud eruption, and the cause is yet-to-be determined.

What I and the team were shocked to uncover was the lack of interest from the exploration company in making any of this public. (which they have been sitting on for some time).


The earthquake wasn’t particularly large (6.3-6.4), history has seen 100′s of earthquakes between (5.0 – 7.0) hitting Java without incident- No mud volcanoes the size of LUSI erupting.

However, this earthquake was the most destructive (damage & death) in modern times. Killing 6,000, leaving 1,500,000 homeless.

The eruption caused 2 volcanoes to reactivate including Mt Semeru 280KMS away from the earthquakes epicenter.

So the earthquake was not normal, and more research needs to be done, which a German University has undertaken.


Drilling team felt the earthquake, minutes later a circulation “loss” occurred.

4 and 5 hours later 2 after shocked were felt. The well then experienced another circulation “loss”.

These were both handled to normal industry standards.

Large cracks appeared (noticed) between first and second “loss”, these cracks within drilling staging area, and within the surrounding areas. A large highway (toll road) bridge was later dismantled due to damage (cracks).

The following morning 3 (10-15m apart) eruptions were noticed 200m from the drilling platform, they were coming from a large crack that had appeared on vacant land. Over the next 2 days sizable eruptions were coming from 3 locations within 1KM from the first location. All of these eruptions line up, (straight line), indicating a fault had been reactivated- Maybe.

Over the next 12 months over 90 eruptions occurred, spewing up to 150,000m3 of muddy salty water.

No mud came from the bore hole. Pressure was normal, and the shoe wasn’t damaged.


What is also interesting is the fact the area is prone to mud volcanoes. Many villages live on top of them (crazy), they are small but never the less they are “live”. There are 6 large mud volcanoes all of these, including the smaller ones reacted around the time of the earthquake (within 2-4 days), many eyewitness accounts, and physical evidence was collected. We even saw a house that was positioned on-top-of an eruption…. poor buggers.


Many say politics and in fighting between the partners, (the Indonesians partners are political rivals, but it seems in this case were happy to do business together).

Our research/investigation team uncovered interesting “political” facts which once understood kinda unravel what happened or more to the point what went wrong.

Our report points to a “leaked” letter from one of the partners (MEDCO) whom blame the drilling company. They indicate that steel casing wasn’t used when, they (MEDCO) reminded them to do this days before the incident.

(We have evidence that ALL partners agreed to the drilling plan, and that they all saw daily reports, as did the government management agency BP MIGAS).

So the letter is BS.

But the media ran it, and it seems most Indonesian’s believe everything they read in the morning paper.

Our report points to liability issues, and the fact (MEDCO) claimed or use the words “Gross Negligence”. Looking further we uncovered that if the partners could claim “Gross Negligence” then they would be off the hook it terms of liability. Further investigation found that the founders of MEDCO were securing funding to buy back shares in the company. They had lost control of MEDCO during the Asian Economic Crisis a few year earlier, and so we believe they couldn’t afford another financial disaster.

It starts to get even more interesting when media reported the leaked letter and the name of the “other” Indonesian partner, Bakrie. Bakrie family are well known in Indonesia with the eldest member holding a senior position in the current administration.

So, the media start accusing the government of a cover-up and are protecting the so called powerful Bakrie family.

They are Rupert Murdoch’s partner in Indonesia, so they must be pretty connected.

It gets even more interesting when weeks after the eruption a UK based University professor Richard Davies starts blaming the drilling company. We uncovered that this professor has never visited Indonesia, or seen any drilling data. (at this time).

This professor then steps up his finger pointing campaign, releasing a very damaging paper again blaming the drilling company. We find that at this time he still hasn’t visited the mud eruption, has never contacted the drilling company (so they say) and has never seen any data.

We found that all data relating to exploration, drilling, energy is owned by the government, and they must approve any transfer of information/data to 3rd parties. The agency BP Migas confirmed that no requests have been received to pass on data to this person.

In fact he claimed sources “confidential sources” had provided him with data. Strange that a university professor behaves in such a manner.

What Davies did do during his only visit to Indonesia in 2007 was meet executives from MEDCO. The plot thickens.

What gets this entire thing even more interesting is Davies comments and papers are released via a commercially funded public relations campaign. Strange isn’t it.

In addition, Davies is reported to have said that he admitted making mistakes in his first paper, as he was rushing to get it published…. why the rush? Other interests involved?

Two years on Davies continues to attack the drilling company, behind a well financed public relations/media campaign.

So, it not what it seems to be.

Scary stuff.

October 15, 2008 at 2:14 pm
(4) Geology Guide says:

Ray, I have no stake in the LUSI debate, so I’m just noting for the record that I can’t confirm anything you’ve said here about your team, your backers, or the publication of a report. You could make it easier to do so, and I hope you will if possible. You’re talking about some ticklish things, and while they’re interesting we can’t give them much credence.

October 17, 2008 at 4:37 pm
(5) Ray says:


Difficult to give more info without hurting others, including myself. I work for NGO’s and government agencies in developing countries.

The outcome of the work, we assume is for not for the public domain, but in a way I disagree.

As an expat you know about keeping your head down in countries like Indonesia…. its a nice place to visit, and getting “black listed” happens.

Its clear Indonesia is very important to the donor on this project. With an election around the corner politics plays an important part and clearly keeping the current “players” in the game is on the agenda.

Your readers must realize that Indonesia is the worlds 4th most populous nation….and religion plays an important part. Maintaining stability is very important for the obvious reasons.

I won’t be surprised if the result of our work is used in some way to assist a desired outcome.

It very clear from what I’ve seen and read that some “experts” are potentially sticking their heads out too far for too long.

I do regret naming names in my early note, but the whole issue makes me pretty mad.

October 22, 2008 at 9:55 am
(6) Winarko says:

Hi Ray,
it’s really intriguing to learn that you’ve been researching the cause of this disaster for 18 month, yet me who on daily basis live and try to help the victims for more than a year now never heard a thing about you or the study. It’s in our biggest interest that anyone or organization can step up and said, unarguably, what’s trigger the mudflow, and then, most importantly, determined who then should be responsible for our prolonged losses and sufferings. We don’t give a damn with whoever it will, government or companies, as long as we get compensated, so we can starts to restore our lives. I would be more than happy to assist you, if only i knew.

However your study conclusion (not the drilling, but yet undetermined) looks like will only prolongs this debate, on the cost of our sufferings.

I demised your team, companies geologist, as well Davies, et al, for this idiotic tail chase and ego maniac debate, in the name of science, or whatever values you held high. For once, can’t y all geologists, please reduce your scientific lust, and starts pay attention to victims situation.

I’m not anonym, you can contact me anytime at winarko@korbanlapindo.net. This also the website we develop to starts telling the world what mishape tens of thousand of us been through this last 2,5 yrs, and how gloomy the future that lay ahead of hundreds of thousand others.

Friendy greeting from sidoarjo

spokesperson of civil alliances for lapindo survivor

October 27, 2008 at 3:58 pm
(7) Andrew says:

If the drilling did not cause the problem in the first place then there will be no compensation. I am disgusted that people blame this company when they have no facts to support their libel comments.

Im sure that if all the evidence in the world was put forward to prove that the drilling had nothing to do with the erruption, people would simply shut their ears and refuse to listen.

If you want someone to blame then blame GOD, it doesnt matter which God you blame either because none of them are lisning anyway.

P.S. While you take pleasure in slagging off Scientists and Geologists, remember, if you leave them alone to do there job, they will probably learn new things which may very well save thousends of lives in the future. Its not there job to pay attention to the victims, its the governments job.

I hope my comment has been educational for you


October 29, 2008 at 6:18 pm
(8) Conrad says:

Andrew, I agree with you. Why are scientists and geologists making so much noise about this issue? I was in Cape Town for the AAPG conference, the LUSI debate never happened, its was circus. Both sides showed what they believed was true, each side were not allowed to “debate” and the main player Richard Davies needed a new “expert” to complete his own presentation. It was a joke.

November 2, 2008 at 7:52 am
(9) toby says:

Hi Andrew and Conrad, what is this? a friends of Lapindo corner? No evidence of Lapindo’s responsibility? Did the AAPG conference not vote after looking at evidence?

The sad thing is that the victims in Sidoarjo will not get much help what ever happens thanks to the crap indonesian legal system and the “good as it gets” connections of bakrie. Pompous gits like andrew just rub salt into their wounds.

Andrew, what ever you think about Lumpur Lapindo and its causes, you’re an idiot who definitely needs to work on his people skills.

November 3, 2008 at 7:16 am
(10) Andrew says:

Toby, I am not a friend of Lapindo’s corner, but I am a friend of the truth. In the UK we hav a great legal system which means that people like yourself cant go around making libel comments without having concrete evidence to back them up.

Your right, the indonesian legal system is poor but if it were better, what result would the people get? The answer is simple, the reult would be the same, no concrete evidence = no compensation.

Pointing the finger will only cause more anger, which people do not need. It would be great if there was a solution to this problem which meant the people would get compensation, but there isn’t one and they wont. This is not rubbing salt into their wounds, it’s simply telling it how it is.

P.S. I will not finish off calling you an idiot or something like that because I am an educated man. I only hope that you can learn to control your temper as I fear it will do a lot more harm than it can possibly do good.

P.P.s After spending years studying law, I no that my people skills are very good, which is why my clients no where they stand. It would be very wrong of me to give them faulse hope Dont you agree?

November 8, 2008 at 9:03 am
(11) Conrad says:

As far as I can see there isn’t 100% evidence again Lapindo. What interests me is the interests of Davies and associates, it could have been Shell or Exxon, I don’t care.

The fact is the Cape Town event wasn’t what it was billed to be. Davies was allowed to present an unscheduled accredited presenter, whom he introduced as part of the Government independent investigation team. This person Mr. Lusiaga presented evidence that Davies claim proves drilling was the cause. Problem is who is Mr. Lusiaga? Durham University press release says he was interviewed by the police because he is an expert! What does this mean? He isn’t part of the Government? If this is the case all the “expert” in Cape Town were fooled by Lusiaga and Davies – the data isn’t creditable and AAPG should let the “experts” know the truth.

The other issue is the earthquake. Manga points out that there have been stronger earthquakes that haven’t caused eruptions.He quickly dismisses the fact that this earthquake was the most destructive earthquake ever to hit Java leaving 6,000 dead, the previous death toll (max) was 13 dead.

Mazzini reasoning was far more scientific raising questions on the “plumbing system” as he showed evidence that other mud volcanoes/ volcanoes reacted near Lusi after the same earthquake.

As for the victims, I have no idea. Isn’t it the Governments job? Lapindo say they have spent USD400m, isn’t that for the victims?

As for Toby. I think your misguided or at the wrong website.

For Davies, I’d be very concerned. I’d expect a flash London law firm calling soon.

Leave a Comment

Line and paragraph breaks are automatic. Some HTML allowed: <a href="" title="">, <b>, <i>, <strike>

©2014 About.com. All rights reserved.