The Chinese government has given the oil company responsible for a massive oil spill in its northern Bohai Bay until the end of the month to clean up the damage to marine ecosystems, as the country's maritime authority said it would file a lawsuit for compensation.
According to a report on the official website of the State Oceanic Administration (SOA), officials met ConocoPhillips officials on Tuesday, urging the company to seal off oil leaks in northern China's Bohai Bay and clean up polluted areas before an Aug. 31 deadline.
"To date, ConocoPhillips has not yet sealed off sources of the oil spill at Penglai 19-3 oilfield," the administration said.
It said the company's response to the disaster had so far been "temporary and remedial."
"The company has come to no clear conclusion about why a new oil spill source has been found at Platform B, why more oily mud has been found near Platform C, or even whether similar situations could occur in the future," the statement said.
It said the measures taken by ConocoPhillips have so far been limited to lowering pressure on the seabed and installing an oil containment device.
"They have not eliminated oil spill risks effectively," the SOA statement said.
China's maritime authority on Tuesday confirmed that it would sue companies responsible for oil leaks in the Bohai Bay.
While the SOA says it hasn't yet decided how much compensation it will claim for the spill, it says the lawsuit is intended to compensate for damage to China's oceanic ecological system.
ConocoPhillips China, in which oil giant ConocoPhillips holds a 50 percent stake, said recently it had cleaned up 2,500 barrels of oil and mud leaked from the company's platforms in the bay.
The official news agency Xinhua said the oil spills have spread to beaches in Hebei and Liaoning provinces, and have been blamed for losses in the provinces' tourism and aquatic farming industries.
Pollutants were later found near the Penglai 19-3 platform C during the company's cleanup work, it said.
Officials first acknowledged the extent of the disaster at the Penglai 19-3 oilfield last month, warning that the spill would have a "long-term impact" on the marine environment.
The leak occurred at platforms in the Penglai 19-3 oilfield operated by ConocoPhillips China, which faces a fine of 200,000 yuan (U.S. $29,850) for polluting an area of more than 840 square kilometers in the bay.
The Penglai 19-3 field, in the center of northern China's Bohai Bay, is China's largest offshore oilfield, producing 160,000 barrels a day.
The leak was first reported at the field's Platform B on June 12, with a second leak discovered five days later at Platform C.
The leaks formed a 13-kilometer slick, which was controlled by floating booms, while the leak was brought under control by June 21, officials said.
The field is operated by ConocoPhillips China under a joint development agreement with the state-owned China National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC).
Xinhua quoted environmental officials as saying that the leaks were difficult to plug, and could affect the quality of seafood in the area.
Reported by Luisetta Mudie.