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Oil spill prompt gov't inspections of offshore drilling

(China Daily)

11:29, October 12, 2011

BEIJING, Oct. 12 (Xinhuanet) -- A nationwide three-week program, starting on Saturday, will inspect and assess the safety of the country's offshore petroleum drilling and exploration operations, according to a statement released by the Ministry of Land and Resources on Monday.

The move comes after revelations that about 41 offshore oil spills occurred in China's waters from 2006 to 2010.

The large number of spills highlighted the urgent need to strengthen the country's offshore supervision and protect China's fragile marine environment, a senior official said.

Of the 41 accidents, 19 occurred in Northeast China's Bohai Bay, while 22 happened in the South China Sea, Xu Shaoshi, minister of land and resources, said at a conference on offshore oil leaks on Monday.

Xu said the risks of marine pollution are increasing as offshore oil exploration continues its rapid development.

Senior officials have regularly emphasized the need to guarantee the safety of offshore oil exploration projects since the continuing oil leak in Bohai Bay started on June 4. So far, that leak has polluted at least 5,500 square kilometers of Bohai Bay, and more than 700 barrels of oil were released into the sea.

The nationwide inspection program will be conducted by the ministries of land and resources, environmental protection, transport and agriculture, the State Administration of Work Safety, the National Energy Administration and the State Oceanic Administration (SOA).

The inspections will cover all offshore oil drilling and exploration platforms, pipelines, floating production storage and offloading equipment, onshore terminals, docks and transport vessels affiliated with the three State-owned oil giants - China National Petroleum Corp, Sinopec Group and the China National Offshore Oil Corp - as well as foreign offshore operators.

Before Nov 15, an inspection report will be sent to the State Council, the statement said.

Offshore oil exploration programs found likely to pose dangers to the environment will be ordered to suspend all production activities, the statement said. It added that operators found responsible for any pollution will be appropriately punished.

Despite intensive inspections carried out on the country's offshore oil exploration operations, the oil spill in Bohai Bay continues.

The latest monitoring report released on Tuesday by the SOA showed about 2.7 liters of oil were spilled near platform C on Monday, and no oil belts were detected in the Penglai 19-3 oilfield operated by the US energy company, ConocoPhillips.

An official from the administration, who did want to be named, said a lawsuit against the company is being prepared but he did not reveal when the case will be filed.

However, Wang Yamin, an associate professor from the marine college of Shandong University, offered a reason for the administration's slow action.

"Maybe the SOA is bargaining privately with ConocoPhillips over the spill compensation," Wang said. "When a deal is reached, the legal process will be a mere formality."

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