Chinese City to Assess Sinopec Chemical Project on Protests

Sunday, 28 October 2012 09:53 AM

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Oct. 28 (Bloomberg) -- Authorities in eastern China vowed to conduct an environmental assessment on a chemicals project after protests against the proposed facility turned violent.

The protesters, numbering over a thousand, were opposing the expansion of a plant owned by China Petroleum & Chemical Corp., or Sinopec, in the eastern port city of Ningbo, according to Phoenix Television. The project is still in its preliminary stages and the government will conduct an environmental assessment, the city’s Zhenhai district said in a statement on its website.

The demonstrations started on Oct. 24 when about 200 villagers began petitioning over environmental concerns and blocked traffic, the local government said. Local residents yesterday expressed concern about the refinery’s production of ethylene and paraxylene, known as PX, a toxic petrochemical used in plastics, paints and cleaning solvents.

The protest is the latest in a series of confrontations between local governments and residents over pollution concerns linked to industrial projects. Thousands in the southwestern city of Shifang protested in July over the construction of a molybdenum copper plant, and demonstrators in Dalian, in northeast China, last year succeeded in getting a chemical factory closed on environmental grounds, according to reports by state media.

While local authorities condemned the organizers of yesterday’s protest, they said public sentiment would be taken into consideration before the start of construction.

The expanded Sinopec plant is designed to produce 15 million tonnes of refined oil and 1.2 million tonnes of ethylene annually and will cost about 55.87 billion yuan ($8.9 billion), the official Xinhua News agency reported today.

Lv Dapeng, a Beijing-based spokesman for Sinopec, Asia’s biggest refinery, wasn’t immediately available to comment outside of normal business hours today.

Ningbo will “firmly oppose” the PX project and halt the refinery’s “initial work” to conduct further studies, China News Service reported, citing an unidentified spokesperson from the city’s government.

--Editors: Katrina Nicholas, Paul Tighe

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Paul Tighe at ptighe@bloomberg.net

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