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The energy company CronocoPhillips and their Chinese section has not effectively stopped or cleaned up offshore spills in the Bohai Bay, according to China’s Oceanic Agency. The spills, which occurred on June 4 and June 17, releasing approximately 700 barrels of oil into Bohai Bay and 2,500 barrels of mineral oil-based drilling mud onto the seabed, have raised an outcry among environmentalists.
The State Oceanic Administration said its investigation discovered that the company had failed to completely clean up damage from the spills and to ensure leaks would not recur. The agency also ordered the company to halt all gas and oil production in the area off China’s eastern coast, until effective measures are taken to prevent further oil leaks as well as ensure that any remaining spills are completely removed.
It also called for a full environmental impact assessment before production can be resumed. CronocoPhillips said it was drawing up a compliance plan along with its partner in the Bohai Bay, China National Offshore Oil Corp (CNOOC). “Activities that are related to depressurizing the field will continue in a safe and environmentally responsible way,” it said in a statement released by CronocoPhillips at the beginning of September.
CronocoPhillips China holds a 49 percent stake in the venture in the Penglai 19-3 oil field, being its sole operator, with CNOOC holding 51 percent. Both companies have publicly apologized for the incident. Initially, CronocoPhillips reported that the spills have been entirely removed. The company also said the fault causing the leak was sealed and that the situation was basically under control.
Despite the companys reassuring statements, the State Oceanic Administration and the Chinese press clearly expressed its dissatisfaction towards the manner in which the oil giant has handled the problem. The People’s Daily severely criticized the company, saying that CronocoPhillips issued misleading statements over the spills while displaying “indifference” over the harm caused to the environment.
According to the publication, CronocoPhillips strove more to protect its image and did not put enough effort into safeguarding the environment after the spill was made public in early June. “There is a sharp contrast between the company’s sensitivity regarding its image and its indifference to the pollution,” People’s Daily commentator Jiang Hongbing said in unambiguous terms.
“After repeated delays and a series of cover-ups and deceptions, production at the Penglai 19-3 oil field has finally been ordered to stop.” The government also says that the spills spread up to 5,5000 square kilometers(2,124 miles) and may have killed scallops.
CronocoPhillips declared that damage to the marine environment was minimized and that oil traces discovered onshore were not related to the spills but were from fuel in the water. The comments made by the oceanic administration at the beginning of September suggest a clash of opinions over how to handle the seeps.
It is believed that pressure had built up underground due to injections used to help force oil from the wells. The notice issued by China’s Oceanic Agency ordered CronocoPhillips to accept CNOOC’S “strict supervision” in preventing further spills and recently has also threatened to sue the company.
Environmental groups complained about the slow pace of the cleaning operations, while fishermen in Shandong, Hebei and Liaoning provinces claim that oil has killed off most marine life. Another consequence of the incident was a drop in CNOOC’s shares in early September, which fell 8.8 percent in Hong Kong.
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