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Qingdao blast caused by oil thieves

16 December 2013

According to a Reuters report  the explosion and fire that killed 62 in the Chinese city of Qingdao in Shandong province on November 22 was caused by oil thieves, who tapped into the oil pipeline, causing the leak that led to the explosion. 

The city of Qingdao, Shandong province
The city of Qingdao, Shandong province

An investigation into the cause of the explosion, which is the worst ever experienced by China Petroleum & Chemical Corp. (Sinopec), found that the most likely reason for the blast was crude oil that had leaked from one of the many holes into urban storm drains. The pipeline was punctured on average twice a week by thieves siphoning off the oil, but despite this, it had passed a safety check just two months earlier.

Pipeline explosions and leaks are becoming more of a threat to China’s people as both the country’s pipeline network and cities expand quickly, covering more ground and inevitably coming into contact with each other more often.

A source working at Sinopec told Reuters that the Dongying-Huangdao II pipeline is tapped more than 100 times a year, and yet still it managed to pass an internal safety inspection in September.

Yang Dongliang, the national director at the State Administration of Work Safety, said that the explosion highlighted the problems caused by the layouts of oil pipelines and urban drainage systems, the lack of pipeline supervision, and the inefficient manner in which oil leaks are addressed and cleaned-up.

According to Reuters,  in 2011 and 2012 Sinopec warned the local government of the city of Weifang that the rapid urbanisation programs near to the Dongying-Huangdao II pipeline was preventing access and therefore the vital repair works needed to be carried out on the pipeline.

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