January 28, 2013, 3:10 p.m. ET
By DEDEN SUDRAJAT and ANDREAS ISMAR
JAKARTA–Indonesia’s Cepu Block crude-oil site, operated jointly by Exxon Mobil Corp. and PT Pertamina, is likely to face delays in reaching peak production, a senior official at the regulatory body overseeing upstream oil and gas said Monday, dealing a blow to the country’s ambition to boost daily output to 1 million barrels and souring government relations with the U.S. firm.
Delays for oil exploration projects at the block “may cause the block to only reach its daily peak production of 165,000 barrels in November of 2014, not in May” of 2014, Widhyawan Prawiraatmadja, deputy of planning at SKKMigas, told Dow Jones Newswires in a telephone interview.
“That’s partly caused by the incompetence of the local head of Exxon Mobil…He’s not cooperative in speeding up the production process. That’s what makes us not interested in extending his working permit,” Mr. Prawiraatmadja said, without saying whether it had already issued a formal notification rescinding the permit of Richard Owen, the Indonesian head of Exxon Mobil.
Local officials of Exxon Mobil weren’t immediately available for comment.
SKKMigas, a unit of the country’s ministry of energy and mineral resources tasked with overseeing the upstream oil and gas sector, said in a statement that it views “Cepu Block as the backbone to increase Indonesia’s oil production going forward.”
It added that BPMigas, the regulatory body it replaces, rescinded several working permits for foreign contractors in the past.
The southeast Asian nation has consistently fallen short of its production targets. In 2012, annual production averaged 865,000 barrels, below a government goal of 930,000 barrels a day.
Late last year, the then vice minister of energy and mineral resources, Rudi Rubiandini, told The Wall Street Journal that the country would likely fail to meet its 2013 crude-oil production target of 900,000 barrels a day.
President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono is keen to overturn such a trend and pledges to boost daily crude production to 1 million barrels in 2014, when his second and final term will end.
Indonesia left the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries in 2008 after becoming a net oil importer earlier in the decade. Output peaked at 1.6 million barrels a day in 1965 and again in 1976, and a lack of investment has seen the ratio of oil exploited to oil discovered fall below 100%.