Oil Spill in China

Feature Story - 2010-07-20
On July 16, 2010, two pipelines exploded in Dalian, Liaoning province, spilling oil into the Bohai Gulf. This accident – occurring just a day after BP finally capped their Macondo well in the Gulf of Mexico – should be a grave reminder of the continued and unavoidable dangers of our continued reliance on an oil economy.

A set of photos released by Greenpeace shows firefighters trying fix an underwater pump during clean operations in Dalian, China. In these photos, one of the workers are seen to have been submerged underneath thick oil and has not emerged after nearly one hour. Greenpeace activists were on site to assess environmental impacts of the oil spill when the incident happened.

 

On July 16, 2010, two pipelines exploded in Dalian, Liaoning province, spilling oil into the Bohai Gulf. This accident - occurring just a day after BP finally capped their Macondo well in the Gulf of Mexico - should be a grave reminder of the continued and unavoidable dangers of our continued reliance on an oil economy.

The pipelines were transferring oil from a Liberian tanker ship to storage facilities in Dalian's Xingang Port. One pipe exploded, triggering a series of explosions in another pipeline and breaking open a storage tank.

An estimated 11,000 barrels (1,500 tons) of crude leaked into the ocean, creating an oil slick that has expanded over some 100 square kilometers. A fire raged for 15 hours before it was mostly extinguished.

Irriversible and long-lasting damage

The oil spill holds serious consequences for the coastal ecosystem, as well as the fishing and tourism industries and local communities. Although it is still too early to fully evaluate the environmental consequences of this accident, one thing is certain: there is no such thing as a complete clean-up. The damage done by every oil spill is irreversible and long-lasting.

The clean up process has already begun, with booms, skimmers, and dispersants, which themselves are hazardous chemicals whose harmful effects have not yet been fully studied.

Energy reform is the only solution

"From the Gulf of Mexico to the Gulf of Dalian to the numerous coal mine accidents, it is tragically obvious that economic development built upon fossil fuels is unsustainable and comes at a high price," says Yang Ailun, head climate campaigner at Greenpeace China. "To ultimately avoid the devastating consequences of such accidents on our environment and safety, we must reform our energy system by improving energy efficiency and developing renewable energy sources, while moving away from dirty fossil fuels such as oil and coal."

Greenpeace is closely monitoring the development of the spill and the clean-up efforts, and is sending a field team there to assess the environmental impact of the disaster. Greenpeace calls for the Chinese government and responsible corporations to carry out a comprehensive assessment of the environmental impacts and take strong actions to minimize the negative consequences.

Oil disasters like these show that no matter the technology and precautions, spills cannot be predicted or prevented. Our reliance on petroleum ties the world together in poisonous ways, anchoring economies to environmental tragedies like those in the Niger delta, the Ecuadorian rainforests, the Gulf of Mexico, and now on the shores of Dalian.

Today, the energy ministers of over 20 nations, including China, are meeting in Washington D.C. For the first time they are focusing their discussions entirely on clean energy - let's hope they come up with some firm decisions and commitments to a new energy future.

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