On Friday morning, November 22, an underground oil pipeline running through the Chinese port city of Qingdao began leaking, prompting its shutdown. Initial reports state that the underground pipeline exploded shortly after the shut down (at approximately 10:30am) — killing at least 35 people and injuring another 166, according to the most recent counts.
An early investigations by city officials stated that the initial leaked oil flowed into the municipal (electrical) grid, causing the explosion
The explosion resulted in the spillage of an unknown volume of oil into the city’s port. Shortly thereafter, the port spill ignited and resulted in at least two additional explosions.
The early morning explosions and port fire temporarily shut down one of China’s largest oil import terminals which processes 240,000 barrels per day of imported crude. However, an unknown port official was quoted as saying: “The port was not affected by the pipeline blast, but tankers were told to sail away from the port as a safety precaution.” [Reuters]
The pipeline is owned by oil refiner Sinopec Corp (one of the nation’s largest refining companies) and connects Huangdao to Weifang, two industrial cities in the northeastern province of Shangdong. The pipeline supplies oil to several refineries.
According to a Reuters report, the pipeline explosion blasted a hole in a residential road that swallowed at least one truck and allowed oil to seep into utility pipes beneath the city. The Qingdao Environmental Protection Bureau reported that oil and gas that had spilled onto the sea surface had caught fire, covering an area estimated at 32,000 square feet. By late Friday, barriers had been set up to contain the spill and prevent it from spreading further.
China state news agency Xinhua issued a statement from China president Xi Jinping, which called on local authorities “spare no effort to rescue the injured and strengthen safety to eradicate such incidents.” [quote via this Reuters report]
The last reports on the situation indicated that the spill is being contained but the full details of the spill have not been release as of yet. The impact on local marine life has not yet been assessed. However, the magnitude of the spill appears to be considerably less that China’s last major oil spill which occurred in 2010 in the northeastern port of Dalian (see photo, above right). That spill released somewhere between 18 and 27 million gallons of crude oil into the Yellow Sea, which is comparable to the Exxon Valdez oil spill.
Souce material for this post came from the Think Progress/AP article ‘Oil Pipeline Explodes In China, Killing 35 And Setting The Ocean On Fire by Andrew Breiner
Additional material came from the Reuters post ‘Sinopec oil pipeline blast kills 35 in eastern China’ by By Chen Aizhu
Top photo: A man stands next to an overturned car on a street damaged by an explosion at a Sinopec Corp oil pipeline in Qingdao, Shandong province, November 22, 2013. Credit: Reuters/China Daily
Bottom photo: A worker cleans up after China’s 2010 Dalian oil spill. CREDIT: ASSOCIATED PRESS