Mud volcano to continue erupting for 26 years

Posted by Emma Woollacott

The world's largest mud volcano looks set to continue erupting for another 26 years. Lusi, in Indonesia, first blew in 2006, killing about 15 people and rendering thousands of families homeless. More than a dozen villages have been swallowed up.

It's believed to have been caused by the blowout of a natural gas well nearby - although the Indinesian authorities have linked it to an earthquake that struck about 174 miles away a few days earlier.

Since then, it's continued to spew out mud at up to a million cubic feet per day - about five billion cubic feet in total.

And it's not going to stop any time soon, according to scientists at Durham University and Perth's Curtin University. The team's developed a new model using pressure readings from a nearby borehole and data on water sources and the local soil and rock structure.

And they reckon that it'll take more than a quarter of a century for the flow to fall by 90 percent. "By analogy with natural mud volcanoes, it can be expected to continue to flow at lower rates for thousands of years," say the authors.

It's even possible, they say, that the mud could be being replenished by another underground source, in which case it could carry on at its current rate for a hundred years.

In a report in the Journal of the Geological Society, the authors say that subsidence is causing new vents to open - and that over the 26 year period the ground level could drop by another 95 to 475 meters. Many of the existing 167 vents are spewing out dangerous gases, and some of these have ignited.

The immediate area is likely to be uninhabitable for a very long time.