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New Kuwait oil spill reported off southern coast

20 September 2017

Another oil spill was reported on September 19 in the Ras al-Zour area, where the Kuwait National Petroleum Company is building the Middle East’s largest refinery. This is the latest in a series of unexplained leaks off the Gulf State in recent months, with another reported in the same area last month and another, at Abu Fatira, measured at over a nautical mile in length.

According to the Kuwait Times, the Kuwait Environment Public Authority (EPA) said the scope of the spill was still being assessed. EPA head Sheikh Abdullah al-Sabah said those responsible would be prosecuted.

The leak is near an offshore field that is being developed jointly by Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, in their neutral zone. The field, Al Khafji, has a 50-kilometre pipeline running to the coast, and it was this pipeline that some industry experts said was the likeliest culprit for the spill.

Previous cleanup measures prioritised nearby waterways, water facilities, and power plants. Chevron, which operates fields in both Kuwaiti and Saudi waters, along with specialist firm Oil Spill Response Limited, helped the EPA with cleanups in August.

The Ras al-Zour refinery has a price tag of $11.5 billion and will have a capacity of 615,000 barrels per day. The area is also home to two power and water desalination plants, both of which have so far remained unaffected by previous spills.

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