Fire breaks out at refinery in China


A fire has engulfed Chinese state-owned oil giant PetroChina’s largest oil refinery, the official news agency Xinhua said Monday, the second blaze at the plant in recent months.
Fire broke out at the refinery in northeast China when an oil tank caught light at at around 10:00 am (0200 GMT), Xinhua reported in a short dispatch, giving no details of any casualties.
Pictures on local news websites showed the refinery in the coastal city of Dalian in flames and Xinhua quoted local people as saying the air was filled with smoke and traffic blocked as fire engines rushed to the scene.
The accident is the latest to hit China’s rapidly expanding oil industry, which has come under fire over its safety standards as the nation rushes to produce energy to fuel its booming economy.
A spokesman for the company who declined to be named confirmed that Monday’s blaze was at the same refinery that was hit by a fire in July, but refused to provide any more details.
There were no casualties were in the July fire, which PetroChina blamed on a leak from a piece of oil refining equipment.
The world’s second-largest economy is also grappling with a huge spill from oil platforms jointly owned by state-owned CNOOC and US oil giant ConocoPhillips that have polluted large parts of Bohai Bay off the east coast.
In July 2010, two pipelines exploded at a PetroChina oil storage depot in Dalian, also triggering a devastating spill.
The government estimated about 1,500 tonnes of oil poured into the Yellow Sea after the fire, but environmental watchdog Greenpeace said up to 60 times that amount may have escaped.
And in January this year, more than 30 people were injured when an explosion ripped through a PetroChina oil refinery in neighbouring Fushun city.
Dalian, a major Chinese port and transport hub, sits at the confluence of Bohai Bay and the Yellow Sea about 460 kilometres (290 miles) due east of Beijing.
According to state press reports, the Dalian refinery, PetroChina’s largest, has three crude distillation units with total crude processing capacity of 410,000 barrels per day.
Telephone calls to the Dalian plant and to local authorities went unanswered.