Safety Eyed after China Refinery Blaze

Monday, August 29, 2011 @ 06:08 PM gHale

Firefighters battle a blaze at the PetroChina refinery in the northeast China city of Dalian.

Firefighters battle a blaze at the PetroChina refinery in the northeast China city of Dalian.

Oil refineries in China are coming under scrutiny for their safety standards after another major fire broke out Monday at a refinery in northeast China owned by state-owned oil giant PetroChina.

It took nearly 300 firefighters several hours to put out the blaze, which broke out when an oil storage facility caught fire at 10 a.m., the official Xinhua news agency said, adding there were no casualties.

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The fire was the second to hit the refinery in the coastal city of Dalian in as many months and follows a series of other disasters involving China’s rapidly expanding oil industry. That has led to a closer look at just what safety standards these refineries are employing.

In July 2010, two pipelines exploded at a PetroChina oil storage depot in Dalian, also triggering a devastating spill.

The government estimated about 1,500 tons of oil poured into the Yellow Sea after the fire, but Greenpeace said up to 60 times that amount may have escaped.

And in January this year, more than 30 people suffered injuries when an explosion ripped through a PetroChina oil refinery in Fushun city.

A spokesman for the company confirmed Monday’s blaze was at the same refinery hit by a fire in July, but refused to provide any more details.

The world’s second-largest economy is also grappling with a huge spill from oil platforms jointly owned by state-owned CNOOC and U.S. oil giant ConocoPhillips that have polluted large parts of Bohai Bay off the east coast.

Dalian, a major Chinese port and transport hub, sits at the confluence of Bohai Bay and the Yellow Sea about 460 kilometers (290 miles) east of Beijing.

The Dalian refinery, PetroChina’s largest, has three crude distillation units with total crude processing capacity of 410,000 barrels per day.

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