Offshore operators put on notice after oil spills

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 09 July, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 09 July, 2011, 12:00am


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China's maritime watchdog has ordered oil companies operating offshore wells to assess accident risks following two spills in an oilfield off Shandong .

The State Oceanic Administration issued a notice yesterday telling oil producers to thoroughly investigate any risks, review their emergency planning and also reassess the environmental impact of their operations, a statement on the administration's website said.

The notice was sent to more than 10 oil producers, including China National Offshore Oil Corporation. A joint venture by CNOOC and ConocoPhillips China was responsible for spills at the Penglai 19-3 oilfield in Bohai Bay, China's biggest offshore oilfield, on June 4 and June 17 that spread across 840 square kilometres of sea. CNOOC owns 51 per cent of the joint venture company,

Operators of wells that had experienced oil spills should improve risk management and prevent such accidents from happening again, the statement said.

All offshore operators should learn from the Bohai Bay accidents and 'comprehensively and deeply investigate oil spill risks and rectify them', it said.

They should thoroughly investigate and assess risks in drilling and leaks in pipes, and pay special attention to risk when injecting water into oil reservoirs. Last month's leaks occurred when such work was carried out.

The notice demanded that oil producers review their emergency plans, and that modified plans must include prevention measures for leaks in all links in production and transport, as well as emergency treatment, factoring in the effects of human error and forces of nature.

'The emergency plans for different areas should work well with each other and be able to be co-ordinated in the case of large oil spills,' the notice said.

Operators were told to reassess their offshore wells' impact on the environment according to approved environmental assessment procedures and make the necessary adjustments. Old and worn-out pipes or facilities should be replaced.

The two spills in June, only made public this month, were criticised by environmentalists and the mainland media for the potential damage to the environment and the delays in notifying the public.

The delay in announcing details of the first leak, first noticed on June 4, was due partly to the difficulty of tracing the seepage from a natural fault, they said, noting that such leaks were rare and had not been seen before in the Bohai Bay oilfield.

A statement posted on CNOOC's website yesterday shrugged off its responsibility, saying the drilling operation was conducted by ConocoPhillips, that it had got all its information from its partner and had to 'respect the judgment of ConocoPhillips on the nature of the accident'.

It said it reported the spill to authorities immediately but that it had taken time for ConocoPhillips to collect information and make an accurate judgment. The administration said ConocoPhillips was ultimately responsible for the spill.

In a separate statement, CNOOC said it had held a production safety teleconference on Thursday on preventing such spills.


China's share of the world's oil production. The biggest producer is Russia at 12 per cent; Saudi Arabia 11.8 per cent; US 11.1 per cent