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Urbanization threatened Sinopec pipeline repairs

11.28.2013  | 

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.

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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 growth.

“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 China’s modernization at Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. “The explosion in Qingdao is a huge lesson for the entire country.”

Repair impediments

“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 company’s pipeline units said in an October report.

Serious response

“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 forward.”

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 Xinhua.

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.



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Aaron Tsue.
12.02.2013

Yeah right, Sinopec should not add the blast incident on the urbanization on the contrary they should upgrade their pipeline safety grade accompanied with the populated areas.

K.S.B.Murukesh
11.30.2013

Significant budget allocation amount should be spent for the Safety department to implement & enforce the stringent rules of HSE in all Chineese Oil & Gas Industries.
K.S.B.Murukesh B.Tech(Chemical Engg.),M.S.(Engg. Japan)

EJAZ UL HAQUE
11.29.2013

Very heavy price paid for by the people who died in the accident. Government's responsibility is more to evaluate and decide the safest possible development areas. Sinopec has the responsibility to isolate the line if it knew that the pipeline requires repair and is not possible to work due to populated areas above its pipe network.

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