July 19 (Reuters) – Chinese authorities are battling to contain a 50 sq km oil slick after two crude oil pipelines exploded in the northeastern port of Dalian, state media reported on Monday.
Hundreds of firefighters battled for more than 15 hours to extinguish the blaze that started late on Friday when a pipe transporting crude oil from a ship to a storage tank blew up, causing a second pipeline nearby to explode. [ID:nTOE66G007]
There were no casualties, but state television said oil had contaminated the ocean off the port city in Liaoning Province.
The storage facility is jointly owned by Dalian port and China’s top oil company, China National Petroleum Corp (CNPC).
Workers are using skimmers and dispersants to break up the oil slick and stop it spreading, the official China Daily said. The pollution is concentrated about 100 km (62 miles) offshore.
“By Sunday evening, about 7,000 meters of floating booms had been set up and at least 20 oil skimmers were working to clean the spill,” the newspaper quoted local officials as saying.
There are no residents within 3 km (1.8 miles) of the affected site, and little “marine farming”, the report added.
The Xingang oil storage site, where the explosion happened, is home to one of the country’s first government-held emergency crude stockpiles.
It is also a transfer spot for two nearby major refineries, Dalian Petrochemical Corp and West Pacific Petrochemical Corp (WEPEC), both operated by PetroChina (0857.HK) with a combined crude processing capacity of 600,000 barrels per day.
It was not immediately clear if the spill caused suspensions of new cargo offloadings at the port, oil traders said.
The blast happened when a Liberian-flagged tanker was off-loading oil, the China Daily said.
The cause of the blast is under investigation, and CNPC, the parent of PetroChina (PTR.N)(0857.HK), said monitoring of the air and sea environment had been stepped up in the affected areas.
The incident has drawn the attention of top Chinese officials, including President Hu Jintao, Premier Wen Jiabao and security chief Zhou Yongkang, who all issued statements and instructions during the blaze. (Reporting by Ben Blanchard and Chen Aizhu, editing by Jonathan Thatcher)