Sinopec shuts down plants over environmental inspections Published: 2012-9-27 14:16:00

Editor's Note

A subsidiary of the nation's oil refinery giant Sinopec has been found to have been discharging industrial sewage through flood channels into a nearby river in Guangdong Province, State broadcaster CCTV reported. However, it was not the first time Sinopec's plants were caught violating environmental regulations.


The China Petroleum & Chemical Zhanjiang Dongxing Company has been circumventing environmental inspections by pumping unprocessed sewage through flood tunnels into the Nanliu River without treating it, according to the report aired Wednesday.

The plant was also caught replacing sewage samples with tap water to cheat an online supervision system, in an effort to fudge the results of the real-time pollution control network monitored by the local government, the CCTV report said.

The CCTV report, however, neither identified the date when the alleged malpractice began nor clarified the damage caused by the discharges.

Zhou Quan, a senior environmental inspection official in Guangdong, was reported to have said at a conference that Sinopec "has often been threatening the local governments," according to China Business online portal.

More: Sinopec in sewage dump controversy

   Voices & Viewpoints

Lü-Dapeng ◆Our preliminary investigation shows that the issue is merely a problem of design.

◆What the local environmental protection authority has found could be a problem that may occur in the future, not something Dongxing has already done.

◆The company is aware of the media reports and has been conducting an investigation into the faulty refinery.

◆"Over the years we have managed to keep the pollution problem under control," said Lü, adding that this incident represented an isolated case.
Lü Dapeng, a Sinopec
 Ma-Jun ◆As one of the leading State-owned enterprises, Sinopec has grown so powerful and influential that even provincial governments may find it hard to challenge it.

◆Sometimes the local environmental protection authorities give out fines of just 10,000 yuan ($1,586) to 20,000 yuan to the refineries, just to show they have done the required work.

◆Enterprises like Sinopec wouldn't be bothered by that kind of fine. The end result is that the refineries will keep pouring polluted water down into the river.

◆The government needs to increase the severity of penalties and show determination in regard to environmental protection.
Ma Jun, a prominent environmentalist. Photo:

Sinopec Scandals

Pollution scandals

Earlier this year, the Guangdong Environmental Protection Bureau ordered the company to halt operations as the company had failed to meet the requirements outlined after early inspections. Dongxing ignored the government order and re-opened on its own.

In April 2011, the incident at Sinopec's Gaoqiao plant in Pudong New Area leaked hydrogen sulfide; affecting thousands of residents for some six hours before the problem was detected.

In September 2012, a subsidiary of the nation's oil refinery giant Sinopec has been found to have been discharging industrial sewage through flood channels into a nearby river in Guangdong Province.

Quality scandals

In May 2011, many car owners reported their engines losing power and shaking after filling up with No. 93 petrol from a Sinopec service station in Yueyang, Henan Province, with around 10,000 cars in the city awaiting repairs, according to the Xinhua News Agency.

However, following on from this, a Sinopec station in Yuyang, Zhejiang Province, was found to have added water to the petrol.

◆In June 2011, consumers reported blue smoke and a red liquid emerging from their vehicles' exhaust pipes after filling up at a Sinopec branch in Baotou, Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, the Guangzhou Daily reported.

◆In Hong Kong in January 2010, more than 6,000 taxis and minibuses had problems that included stalling after using Sinopec gasoline.

◆Sinopec, apologized for a quality lapse in its gasoline products that damaged thousands of cars in central China's Henan Province in April 2010.

◆In May 2010, drivers waited outside a gas station owned by China Petroleum & Chemical Co in Haikou City, demanding compensation for the damage the oil has caused to their cars.

◆Late in May 2011, hundreds of car owners in Yueyang, Hunan Province, found that the engines in their vehicles were running poorly and that their cars suffered from occasional shaking after they used gasoline supplied by Sinopec.

◆In May 2011, Sinopec was accused of selling gasoline blended with water in Wenzhou, Zhejiang Province.

       Government's Actions

The Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (NPC) on August 27 started its first reading of a draft amendment to the Environmental Protection Law.

The draft adds a clause that calls for governments and environmental protection departments to release information concerning environmental quality, pollution-related accidents and the collection and use of pollutant discharge fees to the public, as well as allows the public to request related information.

China has set a target of reducing the emission of sulfur dioxide and the chemical oxygen demand, a main index for water quality, by 2 percent this year from the 2011 level.

It is also planning to reduce the emission of ammonia nitrogen by 1.5 percent and stop the emission of nitrogen oxide from increasing.

China will limit the construction of chemical plants and launch a nationwide inspection of chemical producers, a senior environment official said in September 2011.
The country will raise the environmental standards of chemical plants and tighten penalties and fines on chemical factory owners who break the law, he said.

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