SHANGHAI (AP) — China's State Oceanic Administration said Tuesday it is investigating ConocoPhillips' role in a recent oil spill and still assessing possible damage to the environment.
The first spill at the Penglai 19-3 oil field off China's eastern coast was detected on June 4 and followed by another on June 17, said a report on the administration's website. The spills, which spread over 840 square kilometers (324 miles) of Bohai Bay, were brought under control by June 19, it said.
"Chinese maritime law enforcement agencies are monitoring the oil spill and will investigate ConocoPhillips in accordance with relevant laws," the regulator said, urging the company to take "urgent measures as soon as possible to reduce the environmental damage from the spill."
Local reports have cited complaints of dead fish, though they said it was unclear if the deaths were caused by the oil. They also have contended that authorities and the company failed to provide enough information on the accident.
The Penglai 19-3 oil field, China's largest offshore field, was jointly developed by ConocoPhillips China and state-owned China National Offshore Oil Corp. The operator of the field is ConocoPhillips China.
Calls to ConocoPhillips seeking comment were not immediately answered. Officials at the Shandong Provincial Oceanic and Fishery Department did not respond to inquiries and calls to CNOOC rang unanswered.
China's worst reported oil spill occurred nearly a year ago, when a pipeline at Dalian, a busy northeastern port, exploded and oil poured into the sea, spreading over at least 165 square miles (430 square kilometers).
Production at the Penglai oil field has been ramped up, with output expected to average 69 million barrels a day of crude oil, over twice the average output of 33 million barrels a day in 2009, ConocoPhillips China says.
Some reports questioned whether the field's location along a very active geologic fault might be partly to blame for the spills.
The State Oceanic Administration said 3,000 meters of sea booms and other devices were deployed to help clean up the spill and the limited amount of oil on the surface as of Monday suggested no significant leaks.
The spill has raised concern over potential long-term impact to the area's very active fisheries industry.
"There are many pollutants in oil, some decompose easily while others do not. If the content is high enough, it can affect people through the food chain," said Zheng Li, an expert at the Oceanic Administration's First Institute of Oceanography, based in the eastern city of Qingdao.
But Zheng said he believed CNOOC had the capacity to resolve the problem, given its experience with earlier accidents.
Researcher Fu Ting contributed to this report.