BEIJING, Dec. 21 (UPI) -- China plans to open 12 offshore oil spill response facilities before the end of the year, an official said.
The move, reported Wednesday by China Daily newspaper, comes after China National Offshore Oil Corp. said in a statement Monday that a leak was found in near its Zhuhai Hengqin gas processing terminal in southern China, prompting an emergency shutdown of production platforms off the coast, the latest in a series of oil spills in China.
The official from China's Ministry of Transport, speaking to the newspaper on condition of anonymity, said 29 oil spill response bases would eventually be opened but he wouldn't reveal a timeline or locations of the first 12 facilities.
However, he said there would be four large bases near the northern port city of Dalian, the site of one of China's worst oil spills in July 2010 when a pipeline belonging to China National Petroleum Corp. exploded, causing a 170-square-mile slick.
That cleanup sparked outrage when a team of workers were dispatched to recover crude oil with their bare hands.
The Dalian spill resulted in a disciplinary warning last month by China's State Council for Jiang Jiemin, chairman of PetroChina Co Ltd., the company which operated the Dalian facility.
The Chinese government maintains that 1,500 tons of oil leaked into the sea from the Dalian spill but environmental group Greenpeace estimated the leak at up to 60,000 tons.
The Ministry of Transport official told China Daily that the larger oil spill response bases will be equipped to clean up to about 1,000 tons of oil and mid-size bases will be able to handle up to 500 tons.
"China's growing oil demand has led to a rapid increase in crude oil transportation by sea and domestic offshore oil exploration, which has exposed our oceans to a larger oil spill threat," said Ma Jun, director of the Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs, an independent environment non-governmental organization.
"It's urgent to develop the response system to reduce the harm resulting from oil spills," Ma said.
In July, China's State Oceanic Administration ordered ConocoPhillips to suspend operations at two of its offshore platforms in the Penglai oil field in Bohai Bay which the oil giant operated under an arrangement with CNOOC, following oil leaks first detected in June.
That spill, SOA says, polluted 2,400 square miles of Bohai Bay.