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Environmental Enforcement: China Halts ConocoPhillips Operations

The Chinese government yesterday ordered ConocoPhillips to stop operations at several rigs in an area affected by a 336 square mile oil slick, warning that another spill could happen “at any time,” Agence France-Press reported.

The slick is the result of a spill at an oil field that the company and state-run oil giant China National Offshore Oil Corp. (CNOOC) operate at Bohai Bay, off China’s eastern coast. The State Oceanic Administration (SOA) said operations would not be allowed to continue until the source of the spill could be plugged.

The SOA instructed ConocoPhillips to suspend production from platforms B and C of the oil field, the company said, adding that it immediately complied with the order. ConocoPhillips said the move will reduce output by about 17,000 barrels of oil per day.

“There has been oil seeping continuously into the sea for days from platforms B and C in the Penglai 19-3 oil field and there is still a slick in the surrounding marine areas,” the SOA said.

“Another spill could happen at any time, which has posed a huge threat to the oceanic ecological environment,” it said.

The spill was detected on June 4 but only made public at the beginning of July. There was also a second incident on June 17, about two miles away near platform C, but releases from that site were stopped within 48 hours, ConocoPhillips said.

Last week CNOOC said the earlier, larger spill was “basically under control” and ConocoPhillips said the leak had been plugged, according to the AFP.

Yesterday ConocoPhillips said that trace amounts of oil estimated at only liters per day were seeping out near the original spill location, and were being contained by booms.

It estimated that the total fluid spilled in the two incidents is between 1,500 and 2,000 barrels. It said that no oil sheen has reached the shoreline and there have been no injuries to personnel.

Last week, the official China Daily newspaper said that dead seaweed and rotting fish were spotted near the slick, and it quoted a fisheries association official who said the spill would have a long-term environmental effect, AFP reported.

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