Balikpapan is a seaport city on the eastern coast of Borneo island in the East Kalimantan province, a resource-rich region well known for its timber, mining and petroleum export products. Two harbors, Semayang and Kariangau - ferry harbour, and the Sepinggan International Airport are the main transportation access to and from the city.
The topography of the municipality of Balikpapan is generally hilly (85%), with only small areas of flatland (15%), particularly along the coast and surrounding the hilly areas. The hills are less than 100 meters higher than the adjacent valleys. The altitude of Balikpapan ranges from 0 to 80 meters above sea level.
Most of the soil in Balikpapan contains yellow-reddish podsolic soil and alluvial and quartz sand, making it extremely prone to erosion.
Some multinational corporations have commercial activities in this city such as Pertamina (Indonesia), Total S.A. (France), Chevron (US), Schlumberger, and Halliburton (US). Government public services also attract many people to work in this area, with presence of Bank Indonesia, Finance Department, Port of Semayang, and several others.
Balikpapan oil refinery is located on the shore of Balikpapan Bay and covers an area of 2.5 km². Established in 1922, it is the oldest refinery in the area. It was destroyed in World War II by the Allies of World War II and re-built in 1950. The refinery has two subunits, Balikpapan I and Balikpapan II.
Balikpapan I consists of two raw oil refinery units that produce naphtha, kerosene, gasoline, diesel fuel, and residue and one high-vacuum unit that produces 100 tonnes (approx 98 tons) of paraffin oil distillate (POD), used as raw material for wax factories. The wax itself has various grades and is sold domestically and internationally.
Opened on November 1, 1983, Balikpapan II has a hydro-skimming and hydro-cracking refinery and produces petrol, LPG, naphtha, kerosene, and diesel fuel.
Balikpapan's airport is the Sepinggan International Airport. This is one of the busiest Indonesian airport after Soekarno-Hatta International Airport and permits large aircraft.
Airlines currently using the airport are Lion Air, Merpati Airlines, Batavia Air, Kartika Airlines, Sriwijaya Air (domestic routes), and Garuda Indonesia, Air Asia, and SilkAir (International routes).
The airport is one of the five principle sites in Indonesia where Muslims begin the pilgrimage to Mecca, the "Hajj". Between 1996 and 1997, the airport served over 4,500 East Kalimantan pilgrims, and from 1997 to 1998, it served pilgrims from East Kalimantan, South Kalimantan, Central Sulawesi, and North Sulawesi.
Other than the airport, Balikpapan also has a seaport called "Semayang" which has many destinations to Surabaya, Makassar, Jakarta, Pare-Pare, and Manado. in 1990s, transportation using ships was very popular. But after the booming of so many new airlines with very cheap price, people now prefer travelling using airplanes to the ships.
The ferry is also another alternative for travelling to other places within coastal areas in East Kalimantan, such as Penajam.