China criticizes ConocoPhillips over Penglai 19-3 oil spill

China’s State Oceanic Administration (SOA) reported a joint investigation team looking into an oil spill in Penglai 19-3 field concluded that ConocoPhillips China Inc. violated its overall development plan during production and used defective procedures and management in the Bohai Bay field.

SOA stopped short of discussing penalties in a statement saying ConocoPhillips “didn’t adopt the necessary measures after the spill, all of which caused a larger oil spill because of its negligence.” Some 6,200 sq km was subjected to marine pollution and environmental damage, SOA said.

ConocoPhillips, which operates Penglai 19-3 and holds a 49% stake, has said 700 bbl of crude and 2,500 bbl of oil-based drilling mud were spilled.

CNOOC holds 51% interest under a production-sharing contract. CNOOC said it will assist ConocoPhillips “to deal with subsequent issues in a proper manner.”

SOA previously requested that ConocoPhillips suspend production from Penglai Platforms B and C until the risk of another oil spill is eliminated (OGJ, July 18, 2011, Newsletter).

Seepage on the seabed was observed June 4 along a natural fault near Platform B. In a second incident, oil and gas bubbles were observed on the surface June 17 near Platform C, 2 miles from the Platform B seep. The bubbles were seen during drilling from the platform, ConocoPhillips reported at the time.

On Nov. 11, ConocoPhillips said it was “actively accepting the supervision” of CNOOC at Penlai 19-3.

“We are making progress in several key areas in a safe, thorough and timely manner. Specifically, we are continuing to:

• Contain and clean up very small traces of oil that intermittently appear on the water.

• Depressurize the field.

• Develop a revised marine environmental impact assessment.

• Update the overall development program.

ConocoPhillips said it is monitoring the seafloor, using remotely operated vehicles and deploying divers when weather permits. Crews have installed underwater cameras and are using laser technology to scan the seafloor for traces of hydrocarbons.

“No additional seep sources or leaks have been detected but careful monitoring continues,” ConocoPhillips said. It has brought its leading experts and managers from across the globe to assist in the spill response efforts.

ConocoPhillips noted that “small quantities” of mineral oil-based mud from the June 17 incident remain on the sea floor. “These residual materials occasionally release trace amounts of oil, which rise to the surface of the water. When this occurs, we have people and equipment in place to contain and manage these very small traces.”

In an update posted on its web site, ConocoPhillips said work continues to reduce reservoir pressure under a phased plan approved by CNOOC.

Contact Paula Dittrick at paulad@ogjonline.com.

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