Pollution fears spark outcry on refinery project

PUBLISHED : Monday, 25 February, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 25 February, 2008, 12:00am


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Lawmakers urge delay to huge Guangzhou oil plant construction

The construction of a US$5 billion oil refinery near Guangzhou - said to be the largest joint venture on the mainland - is facing stiff opposition over concerns that it will aggravate air pollution in the Pearl River Delta.

Guangdong People's Congress delegate Liu Yiling, who is also the director of the provincial environmental protection technology centre, has joined 13 fellow lawmakers to submit a motion urging the government to postpone the project and wait for further environmental assessments.

The motion was handed to the Guangdong government at the provincial people's congress last month, the Economic Observer reported.

The lawmakers argued that the refinery, to be built in Guangzhou's Nansha district, would increase air pollution.

They said the government should wait for a State Environmental Protection Administration (Sepa) assessment.

Ms Liu, who is a member of an environmental committee under the Guangdong People's Congress, said she was shocked to discover the project had been listed as a key development this year.

'Environmental assessments for the whole Nansha industrial district have yet to be approved, let alone for this single project. So how can [they] start construction work?' she asked.

Ms Liu said the refinery would aggravate the heavy smog and other air pollution plaguing the delta.

'This project is situated at the heart of the Pearl River Delta region. It would have a big impact on [air quality] not only in Guangzhou and Shenzhen, but also in Zhongshan, Dongguan as well as Hong Kong,' she said.

Mainland and Hong Kong environmentalists have long raised concerns over pollution from Nansha industrial district - about 80km northwest of Hong Kong - and its effects on the air and marine environment in the region. Villagers from the district were relocated last June and refinery construction was widely expected to start this summer, the Observer reported.

The refinery is a joint venture between Sinopec and Kuwait Petroleum Corporation, with total investment surpassing that in nearby Nanhai petrochemical facilities built by Royal Dutch Shell and China National Offshore Oil Corp, for US$4.3 billion.

Guangdong was chosen as the place for the new oil refinery by central authorities after the province suffered oil shortages in 2005.

On completion, the plant could produce annually up to 15 million tonnes of oil and 800,000 tonnes of ethylene, used to make plastic. It is earmarked to begin operation in 2010.

Chen Guangrong , deputy director of the Guangdong environmental protection bureau, was quoted by the paper as saying that existing regulations stipulated that any such project could not start before a Sepa environmental assessment was completed and the administration had not approved it.

Last June, angry masses of Xiamen residents protested against construction of a giant petrochemical plant - with a 108 billion yuan price tag and expected to produce 800,000 tonnes of paraxylene a year - in their city because of environmental fears. Plans for the plant have been put on hold.

Largest joint venture

The US$5 billion venture between Sinopec and Kuwait Petroleum Corp, is said to be the mainland's largest

The annual amount of oil in tonnes expected to be produced at Nansha: 15m