ConocoPhillips says cleanup of oil spills in China's Bohai Bay almost complete with minimal environmental damage, apologizes for spills

SHANGHAI , August 19, 2011 () – ConocoPhillips apologizes for China oil spills, says cleanup almost complete

The local unit of ConocoPhillips apologized Friday for oil spills in China's Bohai Bay and said the cleanup from the leaks is almost complete, with minimal impact to the environment.

No oil remains on the sea's surface from the leakages, ConocoPhillips China said in a statement, emphasizing it intends to ensure such incidents do not recur.

"ConocoPhillips sincerely regrets the incidents in Bohai Bay, and accepts its responsibilities," the company said.

ConocoPhillips China operates offshore wells in the Bohai's Penglai 19-3 oilfield in partnership with state-run China National Offshore Oil Corp. The spills covered 840 square kilometers (324 square miles) and have drawn criticism from environmentalists and local media, with local oceanic administration officials threatening legal action.

Georg Storaker, president of ConocoPhillips China, said all oil from the spills had either been recovered, evaporated or degraded to "background levels" due to waves, winds and currents.

"No oil from these events remains on the surface of the water of Bohai Bay," he said in the statement. But he added, "Any release of oil, no matter how small, is too great, and we will take all appropriate steps to contain and clean up these releases and prevent them from recurring."

Altogether, the company says about 115 cubic meters (700 barrels) of oil and 400 cubic meters (2,500 barrels) of mineral oil-based drilling mud, used as a lubricant for drilling, were released by the two spills.

The first, on June 4, seeped from a previously inactive fault and may have resulted from pressure from the well's operation, it said, describing the situation as rare.

The second spill, which began June 17, was stopped within 48 hours and the well involved was permanently plugged, ConocoPhillips China said.

It said it was working with the State Oceanic Administration to seal the natural fault that was a source of continuing seepage and that it was investigating the source of droplets of oil seeping from another small area near one of its well platforms.

The oil spills have deepened concern over the marine environment in the Bohai, a major fisheries region that already is suffering heavy pollution from industry and agriculture. ConocoPhillips said its tests of oil particles collected from shorelines found that only two of 56 could be traced to the oil spills. Most, it said, appeared to be from fuel oil.

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