Chinese oceanic authorities confirmed that an oil slick spotted in the waters of Bohai Bay off Laoting county, Hebei Province, is crude oil from a vessel owned by State-owned China National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC).
The North China Sea Branch of the State Oceanic Administration said in a statement posted on its website Monday that tests found the oil in the slick is basically identical to the crude oil transported by CNOOC's Floating Production Storage and Offloading (FPSO) vessel, Bohai Friendship.
The statement also ruled out the possibility of an oil spill related to offshore drilling in the waters, where between early June and late August in 2011 700 barrels of crude leaked into the Bohai Sea and 2,500 barrels of mineral oil and oil-based slurry sank to the sea floor in the oilfield jointly owned by the American oil giant ConocoPhillips and CNOOC.
CNOOC denied there had been an oil spill in the Bohai Bay and it was inspecting the vessel, China Business News reported.
The official statement also said oil and gas exploitation facilities in the bay are operating normally.
"Oil slicks were spotted (offshore) in the county some 10 days ago," Yang Jizhen, head of the county's aquaculture association, told the Global Times Thursday, adding that the oil stretched some 25 kilometers in the water and solid particles were also found on the beach, marking it as crude oil, not fuel, that spilled.
Shao Wenjie, a researcher with NGO Nature University, who investigated the spill, told the Global Times that the situation was shocking.
"Oil particles were all around the beach, and large oil stains can be clearly seen in the waters. The smallest ones were as big as a fist," Shao noted.
Shao said that the quantity was more than what he saw during the previous spill in July 2011, adding that small scale oil stains in the water were not conspicuously spotted.
ConocoPhillips paid about 1 billion yuan ($160 million) to cover losses to fishers for the 2011 spill.
A local environmentalist in the county who required anonymity told the Global Times Thursday the current oil spill occurred just as this year's aquatic production has begun, adding that some fishers have complained that fish fry were growing abnormally and were dying at a high rate.
"CNOOC should release related information in a timely manner and take the initiative in cleaning up the oil stains," said the environmentalist.
Yang said that he has seen the authorities clear away the oil slicks.