Local government denies oil refinery explosions

Firefighters extinguished a blaze that engulfed part of an oil refinery complex in Guangdong Province but caused no explosions at the site, local officials said Monday.

No casualties were reported, and an investigation was launched into the incident at the Huizhou Refinery Company of China National Offshore Oil Corp (CNOOC).

More than 40 fire engines were dispatched and the fire was put out five hours after it was reported at about 4:10 am Monday, authorities said.

Flames soared over 100 meters high after oil leaked at the refinery site, said a government spokesman with Dayawan Economic and Technical Development Zone, where the refinery is located.

Dong Xiaoli, general manager of the refinery, said the fire did not result in any toxic emissions, as only carbon dioxide was detected in the smoke.

Officials and management staff at the refinery insisted that no explosions occurred during the fire at the plant, which is about 40 kilometers from the Dayawan Nuclear Power Station.

There was conflicting information as China News Service reported that an explosion took place at around 10:20 am Monday, while Southern Daily claimed another explosion occurred at 1:55 pm.

The two reports said the explosions did not interrupt rescue efforts.

Zeng Yuanxiang, the city’s work safety bureau chief, said the cause of the accident was being investigated.

A local resident surnamed Jiang told the Global Times Monday by phone that a large flame erupted from the refinery in the early morning and lasted for hours, giving off thick black smoke.

Jiang, who lives about four kilometers from the refinery, said his family was concerned about the situation, despite receiving a text message from the government Monday saying the fire was under control. 

An official with the city’s environmental protection bureau said the fire released a large amount of soot into the air.

“At some monitoring stations, we also observed a 60 percent rise in the density of carbon monoxide,” the official said.

However, the pollution would not seriously affect residents, the official said. “All the waste water has been discharged into a backup pool for treatment, so the seawater or groundwater will not have been harmed.”

This is the second accident involving CNOOC to have occurred this year.

About 840 square kilometers of sea off the coast of Penglai, Shandong Province, is polluted by oil as a result of two spills at the company’s co-developed offshore oilfield a month ago.

The oil giant has also been accused by the media of a cover-up, only announcing the incident had occurred a month after the spills took place.

Yang Fuqiang, a senior advisor on climate and energy to the US-based National Resources Defense Council, told the Global Times that given the recent frequency of accidents in the sector, undertaking security overhauls for the entire oil production chain was a matter of urgency.

“Oil production facilities, designed and built decades ago, may be obsolete and full of hidden risks,” Yang said, adding that preventive measures should be taken before more accidents occur due to human negligence.

Yang also noted that the fire may result in toxic fumes polluting the air and ocean, leading to long-term damage to the ecological system.

Lin Boqiang, director of the China Center for Energy Economics Research at Xiamen University, told the Global Times that accidents in oil production would not be reduced if authorities do not impose heavy penalties on enterprises responsible for them.

“Enterprises do not have any motive for overhauling their own systems and take responsibility for the accidents. Only harsh penalties imposed by the government will effectively prevent such accidents from happening at the root,” Lin said.

Lin added that given the frequency of accidents occurring in the country, a more transparent reporting mechanism should be set up that forces enterprises to disclose related information instantly.

Dong said he expected the refinery, which processes 1,200 tons of heavy crude oil every year, to resume production within a week.

Zhu Shanshan and Xinhua contributed to this story

Source: Global Times

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