By BENJAMIN HAAS & AIBING GUO
BEIJING (Bloomberg) -- China Petroleum
& Chemical Corporation warned authorities in China two
years ago that urbanization was hampering repair work on a
crude oil pipeline in the eastern city of Qingdao. A blast last
week at the pipe killed 55 people.
The pipeline had several safety hazards,
Sinopec, said in a September 2011 report, submitted to the Environmental Protection Bureau in
Weifang, a city near Qingdao. The report describes the
27-year-old pipeline as originally built in a sparsely
populated suburb, now crowded by construction and a rising
population. Qingdao is home to 7.66 million people.
The November 22 crude oil spill and blast, the deadliest
since at least 2005 according to the official Xinhua News
Agency, highlights the challenges facing China in balancing
safety with urbanization, as it rushes to add apartments,
railways and factories. Premier Li Keqiang has championed
urbanization as a huge engine of future economic expansion to revive slowing
On paper more urbanization is good, but it ignores the
lack of government oversight and poor construction quality, said
Ding Xueliang, a professor who studies Chinas modernization at Hong Kong
University of Science and Technology. The explosion in
Qingdao is a huge lesson for the entire country.
Originally the pipeline was located on the outskirts
and it has now become a bustling downtown district,
Sinopec wrote in its September 2011 report. The company cited
many buildings and a densely populated
area as impediments to conducting pipeline repairs.
Sinopec stopped 306 cases, including building projects, that illegally interfered
with its nationwide pipeline operations in the first nine
months, one of the companys pipeline units said in an
The government has been at pains to ensure that it is
seen as responding seriously to this incident, Olivia
Boyd, an energy analyst at IHS Global Insight, said in an
e-mail. We may see stronger policy action on industrial safety
in industries beyond oil and gas pipelines going
Chinese President Xi Jinping has vowed to boost work safety
and increase inspections in the wake of the disaster.
A large-scale work safety check should be launched,
with inspectors going deep into the production sites
anonymously and unannounced, Xi said, according to
In a separate incident, a crane at a high-speed rail construction site fell and caused a
gasoline spill at a Sinopec pipeline in Guizhou province in
southern China on November 26, Xinhua reported. All residents
within 2 km of the leak were evacuated and the spill is being
investigated, it said.