Fund established for marine environment

Updated: 2011-12-30 07:34

By Zhou Yan (China Daily)

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BEIJING - China National Offshore Oil Corp (CNOOC), majority owner of the oilfield that spilled more than 700 barrels of crude oil into Bohai Bay, will set up a nonprofit fund for marine environment and ecological conservation.

The company's major listed arm, CNOOC Ltd, donated the initial 500 million yuan ($79 million) for the fund. In the future, the fund will be raised mainly from CNOOC's subsidiaries, the company said.

"We also welcome our partners to donate on a voluntary basis," it said.

An application to set up the foundation to the Ministry of Civil Affairs for approval on Thursday, the company said.

CNOOC holds a 51-percent stake in the Penglai 19-3 oilfield in Bohai Bay, which began leaking in June, resulting in more than 700 barrels of crude oil and more than 2,600 barrels of oil-based drilling mud seeping into Bohai Bay.

The announcement of the nonprofit marine fund came after ConocoPhillips China, the operator of the country's biggest offshore oilfield, unveiled more details of its compensation fund and environmental fund last week in response to the oil spill, which a domestic marine watchdog concluded was due to the company's negligence.

CNOOC said that its charity fund has nothing to do with the two funds announced by ConocoPhillips, which told China Daily that it wasn't aware of CNOOC's fund.

That fund will cover projects for marine ecological environment protection as well as related scientific research, technological development and other charitable projects. Detailed projects will include those related to ecological restoration and sustainable development arising from oil and gas exploration activities and natural disasters, and restoration and protection of the marine ecosystem.

"The oil spill incident has reminded us that safety and environmental protection risk always exist," Li Fanrong, CNOOC Ltd's CEO, said on Thursday.

Once the company receives approval from top authorities it will start operating the fund, said Liu Xiaobiao, head of CNOOC's media relations.

However, the company said it will not set up a separate compensation fund for the oil spill accident, as the compensation is beyond the company's responsibility.

"It's a good start for CNOOC, but the size of the fund is too small compared with the impact of the spill on the sea," said Zhong Yu, a senior action coordination at Greenpeace.

As a State-owned company, which is authorized by the government to explore for domestic offshore oil and gas, it should bear more responsibilities, she said. "It should invite experts from academia and the government to evaluate the possible environmental damage the spill has caused."

The State Oceanic Administration forced ConocoPhillips to close the oilfield in September after the administration concluded that the company failed to seal the leak.

Regarding the environmental fund, ConocoPhillips said on last Wednesday that it is currently establishing a panel of experts from academia and environmental organizations to provide advice and guidance on future project decisions. Meanwhile the compensation fund will provide a "fair, fast and simple remedy for any public or private claims" arising from the oil spill.

Neither the size of the fund nor the timeline for the two separate funds were revealed by ConocoPhillips.

China Daily