KUCHING: The discovery of liquefied gas at Canada Hill in Miri recently is actually gas leaking from old abandoned oil wells which can be a threat to public safety, clarifies Sarawak Petroleum Contractors Association (Speca) president Datuk Rahman Lariwoo.

He emphasised that these old wells had to be properly sealed, explaining that those with old seals would have to be repaired to prevent gas leakages.

“We at Speca are ready to prepare a working paper to the state government, Petronas (Petroliam Nasional Berhad), or Shell to repair the seals and address this gas leakage issue,” he said during a press conference here today.

“We hope that the government and the authorities will take strict action to repair it and hopefully it will not happen again in the future.”

Meanwhile, Speca vice-president I Jamel Ibrahim said that even if these oil wells were sealed prior, time could cause deterioration and therefore leakages.

He said that there were at least about 624 wells drilled around the Canada Hill area starting from 1910. As for the exact location of these wells, he said that only Shell and Petronas would have such data.

He explained that if these wells were not sealed properly, the gas or oil could bubble to the surface, presenting environmental problems as well as being a public hazard especially since some wells are located near populated areas. 

“As the population of Miri has grown significantly from a village to what it is today, the issue cannot be ignored. Someone has to be held responsible and we need to address it properly now,” he said, stressing that this was urgent in order to prevent any unwanted incidents.

He said that Speca felt that a ministry relevant to environment or public health should act as a referee between Shell and Petronas in settling the matter.

“The locations of the 624 wells should be identified and they should be properly fenced off so that the public is well aware and they will be more careful there.”

Touching on the remaining oil deposits in the wells, Jamel explained that this was dangerous to extract as Miri was now more populated.

According to him, the cost of decommissioning these wells depended on the severity of the leakage. However, the cost would be much less for these onshore wells compared to offshore ones as less equipment was required for onshore decommissioning tasks.

He suggested that once the wells were properly sealed and fenced off, they could even be developed into a tourism product due to their interesting and rich history.

Lariwoo also said that there were many locals qualified and experienced for the task of sealing the gas leakages.

Also present were Speca secretary Ahmad Sazali Annuar and exco member Hafisz Rachman Drahman.