ConocoPhillips suffered a pair of oil leaks off China’s coast and said it would change procedures if necessary to prevent future spills.
China government officials said Tuesday it was investigating ConocoPhillips’ role in the June leaks and possible damage to the environment. The State Oceanic Administration said the oil covered 840 square kilometers (324 square miles) in the Penglai area of Bohai Bay, where ConocoPhillips operates seven production platforms.
ConocoPhillips reacted quickly to both leaks and informed authorities as soon as they found them, said managers of the company and its Chinese partner in the field, state-owned CNOOC Ltd. They said they stopped both leaks and they have nearly completed the cleanup.
The first leak was June 4 at Penglai 19-3 oil field in Bohai Bay, where an oil sheen on the surface traced back to a natural fault, said Mark Ireland, subsurface manager of ConocoPhillips China, the Houston-based company’s local unit. He said such seepage is very rare and they have not seen it before in the Bohai Bay.
The cause is under investigation, Ireland said.
The leak occurred during production work, which included injecting water into the oil reservoir, a standard industry practice to improve output, Ireland said. He said they will suspend drilling and water injection until they complete the investigation.
“We will review all our operating practices associated with the field. We will make any changes necessary in these operating practices to avoid such an event in the future,” he said.
CNOOC’s executive vice president said the delay in announcing details was due partly to the difficulty of tracing the leak.
“It took a lot of time to be certain where this oil came from,” said the executive, Chen Bi. “ConocoPhillips used its best efforts to determine where the oil was coming from.”
The second leak June 17 came from an existing well and they sealed it within 48 hours, said Georg Storaker, president of ConocoPhillips China.
“Today there is no leak but there is cleanup work going on,” Storaker said. He said there were no injuries and no reports of oil reaching the shore.
The State Oceanic Administration said 3,000 meters (3,300 yards) of sea booms and other devices helped clean up the spill. It said the limited amount of oil on the surface as of Monday suggested no significant leaks.
ConocoPhillips China and CNOOC Ltd. Jointly develop the Penglai 19-3 oil field, China’s largest offshore field. The U.S. partner owns 49 percent of the field and is its operator while the Chinese partner has 51 percent.