Photo from Xinhua
While Forbes joked about how China would respond to an oil spill like BP’s in the Gulf Coast, probably nobody expected us to find out so soon. Two pipeline explosions in Dalian on Friday sent an estimated 1,500 tons of crude oil into the sea.
On Friday, an explosion at a storage depot in Dalian’s Xingang Harbor hit an oil pipeline from a Libyan tanker ship as it was unloading. The “first explosion triggered a second blast from a smaller adjacent pipeline,” sending more oil into the ocean and sparking a huge fire, according to VOA News.
When the last renmants of the fire had been put out by Sunday night, the Dalian government declared a “decisive victory” against the spill, but didn’t explicitly say that it had been halted.
But the Dalian government has now shifted its operations to clean up efforts. According to Xinhua, there’s a lot to get working on:
A dark-brown oil slick has stretched over at least 183 square kilometers of ocean near blast-hit Xingang port, with 50 square kilometers severely affected.
The slick can be seen about seven sea miles off Dayao Bay and it turns notably thicker about five sea miles off the bay and gives off a strong smell.
While a Dalian environmental protection bureau official said Sunday that the contamination was being cleared up and had no direct impact on the city itself, the LA Times reports that environmentalists are still in the process of assessing the damage to popular beaches and fisheries, and that smoke from the fire shrouded much of downtown Dalian over the weekend.
The port has now been shut down and will continue to be as clean up efforts – with anywhere from 500 to 1000 fishing boats (depending on reports) – commence for the next 5 to 10 days (depending on reports).
Earlier today, officials released a statement about the cause of the blast: an “error” was made when the oil tanker was unloading at Dalian’s port on July 19. The explosion was caused by a “catalyst” that was accidentally added to the crude-oil storage tank. The official statement did not say what the “catalyst” was or on who’s shoulders the blame lies.