ConocoPhillips does it and denies it
Dhaka, July 27 (bdnews24.com) — Locals along the Bohai Bay have been preparing to sue US oil giant ConocoPhillips China and the state agency, its development partner, for the ‘unending spread of fuel’ from Penglai oil field over 50 days after the first spill was detected.
They claim particles and patches of oil have been detected along coastal areas of northern Hebe province and northeastern Liaoning province since the end of June, which have thrown their lives and livelihood in danger.
Bohai Bay, where the spills took place on June 4 and 17, is surrounded on three sides by Liaoning, Hebei, Tianjin and Shandong.
Chinese franchise of the US firm works with China National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC) at the field, production of which was suspended on July 13 following an order by the authority, State Oceanic Administration (SOA).
According to the regulator, ConocoPhillipsis is responsible for polluting some 4,250 square kilometres of the Bay, of which, 840-square-kilometre area is “seriously polluted”.
The Huston-based company, fifth in the world, is highly criticised for its dilly-dallying in disclosing the accidents, which environmentalists say would threaten the region much.
The Bangladesh government on June 16 awarded the company two deep-sea blocks in the Bay of Bengal for exploration of gas and oil, discounting repeated protests from citizen groups and left-leaning parties.
“Because of the leak, about 70 percent of the scallops seedlings in Laoting county (Hebei province) have been found dead since late June, and the total economic loss for the local fishing industry is expected to reach 350 million Yuan ($54 million),” China Daily said on Monday quoting Yang Jizhen, chairman of the Laoting fisheries association.
Yang said he plans to join forces with local fishers in “filing a lawsuit against ConocoPhillips” and its partner. About 160 households in Laoting county rely on fishing and related work for their livelihood, as per the statistics from the association.
A deputy director for the Laoting aquatic product bureau surnamed ‘Qi’ confirmed that scallops had indeed died, but “the question of whether the deaths were caused directly by the leak is still being investigated”.
Qi asked the SOA to take test samples in Hebei province to learn if a connection exists between the leak and the deaths. “Scallops are very sensitive to their environment in the water,” he said. “Although dead scallops are found every year, they are seldom found in such great numbers.”
“Dried oil particles and patches were found on a 300-meter-long beach in Jing Tang port in Hebei,” China Daily said quoting the SOA notice.
SOA official Lin Fangzhong confirmed that the oil was from the Penglai leak and carried to the beaches by wind and wave, the Xinhua News Agency reported on Wednesday.
The company gave the public little information on June 5, after 31 days, about the cause of the leak and its potential effects on the environment. SOA the same day fined the company 200,000 Yuan ($30,770) for the spills.
ConocoPhillips on July 13 said that the aggregate amount of fluid could be around 1,500 barrels (240 cubic metres) of oil and oil-based drilling fluids, while environmental groups claim the amount be much higher.
It said that due to their comprehensive efforts to curb the oil surface on water, it believes the “seepage has stopped”.
NOT CLOSER TO SHORE
The latest update provided by the company on Tuesday said they were carrying out inspections along the Bay, but until Monday, it did not find any such sample.
It said, “Within the past 24 hours, ConocoPhillips had 60 people walk approximately 140 kilometres of shoreline along Bohai Bay. In addition, 13 vehicles surveyed approximately 2,400 kilometres off-shoreline.”
The workers were collecting relevant materials for tests to see if any of it matches the chemical make-up of the oil released.
Until date, they have recovered only 114 cubic meters in all.
The website reads, “Following consultations with authorities, COPC began a limited, fluid removal process for two wells from Platform B, which will reduce pressure in the reservoir that was the source of the seep.”