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Oil firm spots new Bohai leak sources

(China Daily)

09:33, August 22, 2011

BEIJING - ConocoPhillips China, the operator of two leaking oil platforms off Northern China's Bohai Bay, said on Sunday that it had spotted additional sources of leaks from Platform C of the Penglai 19-3 oilfield.

The company first observed "several small seeps" on Aug 14 about 15 meters north of Platform C with about 2 liters of "materials" discharged from the seepage area each day, ConocoPhillips China said in a statement on Sunday.

The comments followed a statement from the North China Sea Branch of the State Oceanic Administration (SOA) on Saturday, which said that ConocoPhillips conceded to the maritime supervisor that nine leaking sources were spotted.

The company didn't give the specific number of newly discovered leak sources in the statement, but it noted: "It is believed the source of these seeps is residual mineral oil-based mud associated with the June 17 release that is migrating up from shallow subsurface sand layers."

The local unit of the Houston-based energy giant ConocoPhillips said it's still analyzing samples and making plans to stop the leak.

"Platform C has been successfully sealed. There is very little likelihood of a fresh new leak from that area," Donna Xue, spokeswoman for ConocoPhillips China, told China Daily on Sunday.

ConocoPhillips reported another two leaks in early August, after the very first two oil spills from the Penglai 19-3 oilfield were observed in June.

The newly-detected seeps brought the total volume of the spill to 2,500 barrels of oil and oily-based mud, compared with an initial estimate of 1,500 barrels.

The SOA has expressed its dissatisfaction with the company's "inefficient" steps to clean up the leak, which has contaminated almost 4,250 square kilometers.

The agency has urged the company to complete the clean-up by Aug 30.

ConocoPhillips said that the clean-up was 90 percent finished as of Sunday, and it said it would finish the work by the deadline.

It also extended its apology for the leak on Friday by saying that it "sincerely regrets the incidents in Bohai Bay, and accepts its responsibilities".

The extensive pollution caused by the leaks has drawn attention from the top government agencies.

A joint investigation team was established by seven ministry-level bodies, including the SOA, the Ministry of Land and Resources, the Ministry of Environmental Protection and the National Energy Administration.

The team must thoroughly investigate the causes of the spill and comprehensively evaluate the impact and losses involved with the accident, the SOA said in a statement on Friday.

Top executives from ConocoPhillips China and its partner China National Offshore Oil Corp (CNOOC), the nation's biggest offshore oil company that holds a 51 percent stake in the leaking oilfield, gave details of the incidents to the investigation team on Friday.

ConocoPhillips also said on Friday that it's preparing to send a report reviewing the steps taken to address these incidents and to review forward plans to the SOA. It didn't give a delivery date.

The company said that it would keep the public informed of its progress. It would decide on holding another news conference, which has been postponed twice, within one to two days, Xue said.

She refused to comment on possible compensation for environmental damage and losses by local fishermen, who claimed that the spills caused massive scallop deaths.

The North China Sea Branch of SOA said on Tuesday that it plans to file a lawsuit against ConocoPhillips China over the leak, which would be the first such move by a government body.

"ConocoPhillips China has not seen any demonstrated cases of harm to marine life, but the company continues to work with the government and international experts to confirm whether there has been any impact to marine life or fisheries," the company said.

CNOOC has said that ConocoPhillips, as the oilfield's operator, would take full responsibility of the spill.

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