Sinopec shuts down three plants over pollution issues

Sinopec shuts down three plants over pollution issues

10:56 AM, 3rd October 2012
Sinopec shuts down three plants over pollution issues

BEIJING, CHINA: Sinopec, China’s largest oil company, has ordered three subsidiaries in Guangdong province to shut operations and correct problems that violate pollution regulations. In a statement on Wednesday night, the company said it will set up a special team to investigate its three Guangdong-based subsidiaries. “People who are responsible for the subsidiaries will be seriously punished according to the investigation result,” said the statement.

The announcement followed local government accusations that three subsidiaries of Sinopec, one in Guangzhou and the others in Zhanjiang, have long been violating environmental rules despite repeated demands from pollution watchdogs for rectification.

“They always threaten the government by claiming that what they do is for the national economy and the people’s livelihood!” said Zhou Quan, Director, Environment Inspection Bureau, Guangdong Environmental Protection Department, during a meeting.

The meeting, held to conclude an inspection campaign by the province’s environmental authorities, was broadcast on television on Wednesday. At the meeting, Zhou said some government departments did not dare to inspect or supervise Sinopec even after they found the company was discharging excessive pollution. The three companies have a combined oil refinery capacity of more than 18 million metric tonne a year, according to local media report.

Sinopec Guangzhou, which operates a refinery petrochemical complex that can process 13.2 million tonne of crude a year and produce 220,000 tonne of ethylene a year, was found to have stored a large amount of an unidentified liquid in two of its emergency tanks. “The tanks could cause severe environmental pollution in the event of an accident,” said Zhou.

Sinopec’s Dongxing petrochemical company in Zhanjiang, of western Guangdong, was found illegally discharging sewage through its rain drainage system. The environmental protection authority of Guangdong ordered it to suspend its production in May. However, it later resumed production without permission, said Zhou.

Another subsidiary, the New Sino-US Chemical, a polystyrene producer with a capacity of 100,000 tonne a year in Zhanjiang, was accused of illegally dismantling its sewer system and diluting the waste before discharging it into rain tunnels.

In Shanghai, a Sinopec subsidiary was fined 200,000 yuan ($31,700) in April 2011 for causing a toxic gas leak that affected many parts of the city.

An official called on the government to set up a trade system for sewage discharge to encourage companies to introduce efficient emission reduction measures. “Companies may be fined after illegally discharging pollutants, but they can also benefit a lot. That’s why Sinopec has ignored the environmental rules,” said an anonymous official with the Guangdong Environmental Protection Department told Yangcheng Evening News.

“It will be hard for the company to prevent such wrongdoings if we only rely on the environmental rules to supervise its operation. A more effective trade system to let companies benefit from upgrading sewage discharging facilities is needed,” said the official.

© China Daily News

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