China Oil Spill Woes Wage On

Wednesday, September 7, 2011 @ 01:09 PM gHale


The oil spills from offshore wells operated by ConocoPhillips in China’s Bohai Bay continue to present challenges for the oil company.

The company suspended all drilling, water injection and production at the affected Penglai 19-3 oil field, one of China’s biggest.

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Operations are currently stopped at 180 producing wells and 51 injecting wells, said a statement by Houston, TX-based ConocoPhillips, which operates the field in a venture with state-owned China National Offshore Oil Corp.

CNOOC, which owns 51 percent of the venture, said the suspension of production in Penglai 19-3 would reduce output by 40,000 barrels a day, in addition to the 22,000 barrels a day lost with the shutdown of the two wells where the spills occurred.

For such big oil companies, the loss is not a major blow, though for ConocoPhillips, Penglai 19-3 is its largest project in China.

A ship moves near the platform B in Penglai 19-3 oilfield at north China's Bohai Bay, in this file photo taken on July 15.

A ship moves near the platform B in Penglai 19-3 oilfield at north China's Bohai Bay, in this file photo taken on July 15.

The spills began in early June and have unleashed a flood of criticism inside China over how ConocoPhillips has handled the cleanup. The State Oceanic Administration rejected the company’s assertion it had met an Aug. 31 deadline to completely clear up any damage and prevent further seeps.

The spills released about 700 barrels of oil into Bohai Bay and 2,500 barrels of mineral oil-based drilling mud, used for lubrication, onto the seabed, according to ConocoPhillips. The oil company recovered all but a small fraction of that oil and mud, and the small amounts still emerging are from earlier seeps that have been shifting under layers of sand on the seabed, ConocoPhillips said.

But the State Oceanic Administration said monitoring by satellite and underwater robots shows oil is still seeping. It criticized ConocoPhillips’ containment measures as stopgap and said the company may have caused oil to seep through faults in the seabed by putting too much pressure on the oil reservoir.

Dong Xiucheng, a professor at the China University of Petroleum, described the accident as out of the ordinary.

“It is hard technically to find the reason and the exact location of the spill and to try to stop it since it is on the seabed not in a pipeline. Both ConocoPhillips and CNOOC must have tried to do it, but it takes time,” Dong said.

ConocoPhillips has pointed to safety concerns and other difficulties in capping and cleaning up the oil and mud in murky seas with minimal visibility.

ConocoPhillips said divers were continuing to search the ocean floor and that remote-controlled robots were taking seabed samples to monitor the situation. The company said it was working with CNOOC on a plan to reduce pressure in the oil reservoir and was preparing a revised environmental impact report.



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