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ConocoPhillips ordered to stop drilling

(China Daily)

09:15, September 03, 2011

A fisherman in Changli, Hebei province, shows dead scallops believed killed by oil pollution in Bohai Bay. (Photo from China Daily)

BEIJING - ConocoPhillips China has been ordered to stop drilling in Bohai Bay, following an investigation that found it has not fully cleaned up or brought under control the offshore spills that have raised an outcry among fishermen and environmentalists.

In a statement released on Friday, the State Oceanic Administration (SOA) demanded "strong and effective measures" to prevent further oil leaks and to clean up any spills, calling for a full environmental impact assessment before production resumes.

It ordered the company to stop production at its Penglai 19-3 oilfield, which was the source of the leak in Bohai Bay.

ConocoPhillips said earlier this week that it had met a Tuesday deadline for a full cleanup, sealed the fault causing the leaks and placed a containment device to prevent further seepage.

However, further investigation by the SOA found the company's attempt to plug the leaks was unsuccessful.

ConocoPhillips China is developing a compliance plan with its co-venturer in the field, China National Offshore Oil Corp, and will be submitting it to the SOA shortly, according to a news release by the oil company.

Activities that are related to depressurizing the field will continue in a safe and environmentally responsible way, it said.

On Friday morning, a group of more than 30 lawyers representing the fishermen applied to the SOA for the details of the investigation, and will start a lawsuit after getting the report.

"We urgently want to know how much oil has been leaked, how much harm the pollution has caused and how fast the oil will diffuse," Zhao Jingwei, director of the legal group, told China Daily.

"The direction the oil is flowing and the government responses are also our concerns," he said.

However, the lawyer refused to give an exact time for the lawsuit or say how much compensation they will ask for from ConocoPhillips China.

Yang Jizhen, chairman of the Laoting fisheries association in Hebei province, said the Ministry of Agriculture collected a sample of dead scallops in the area on Aug 3 and promised to give a response within one month, but the result is still unknown.

"More than 60 percent of fishermen have suffered serious losses. All fishermen are paying attention to the development of this accident," he said, adding they are looking forward to receiving a fair result and getting compensation after the lawsuit.

Lin Fanzhong, an official with the inspection team, said they conducted a thorough examination of the site with satellites, aircraft, sea vessels and even underwater robots on Thursday.

A preliminary investigation by the administration's inspection team found the leak was caused by incorrect injections that destroyed the stability of the seabed. The company should shoulder responsibility for the accident, the administration said.

In the meantime, ConocoPhillips China should report on the progress of the cleanup work and be supervised by the public, said the administration, which will soon ask the company for ecological compensation.

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