Rush is on to stem Yellow Sea oil spill
BEIJING — China rushed to keep a growing oil spill from reaching international waters yesterday, while an environmental group tried to assess if the country’s largest reported spill was worse than had been disclosed.
Crude oil started pouring into the Yellow Sea after a pipeline exploded last week, sparking a massive 15-hour fire. The government says the slick has spread across 70 square miles of ocean.
Images of 100-foot flames shooting up near part of China’s strategic oil reserves drew the immediate attention of President Hu Jintao and other top leaders. Now the challenge is cleaning up the greasy brown plume floating off the shores of Dalian, once named China’s most livable city.
The environmental group Greenpeace China shot several photographs at the scene yesterday before its team was forced to leave. They showed oil-slicked rocky beaches, a man covered in thick black sludge up to his cheekbones, and workers carrying a colleague covered in oil away from the scene. His condition was not known.
Activists said it was too early to tell what impact the pollution might have on marine life.
Dalian’s International Beach Culture Festival, which draws thousands of tourists every year, started over the weekend, but the state-run Xinhua News Agency said waters around the beach had not been affected by the slick.
Officials told Xinhua they did not know how much oil had leaked.
Dalian’s vice mayor, Dai Yulin, told Xinhua that 40 oil-control boats would be on the scene, along with hundreds of fishing boats. Oil-eating bacteria were also being used.
“Our priority is to collect the spilled oil within five days to reduce the possibility of contaminating international waters,’’ he said.
But an official with the State Oceanic Administration has warned the spill will be difficult to clean up even in twice that amount of time.
The Dalian port is China’s second-largest for crude oil imports, and last week’s spill appears to be the country’s largest in recent memory.
“Government and business leaders have been telling the media that there’s no environmental impact. From Greenpeace’s perspective, that’s very irresponsible,’’ said Yang Ailun, spokeswoman for Greenpeace China. “It’s too early to tell.’’
The cause of the blast was not clear yesterday. The pipeline is owned by China National Petroleum Corp., Asia’s biggest oil and gas producer, by volume.
While the Chinese public has not seized on the accident as its own version of the massive
The International Energy Agency said China has overtaken the United States as the largest energy consumer, using the equivalent of 2.252 billion tons of oil last year. China immediately questioned the calculation.
“China was a spectator of the Gulf of Mexico incident, but suddenly it itself has attracted attention from the whole world,’’ wrote Sima Pingbang, the executive chief editor of environmental protection website chinaepr.