Chad suspends CNPC’s oil operations after oil spill

Chinese press are disputing reports that all oil operations have been suspended in the North African country

Chad has indefinitely suspended China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC)’s oil operations, for violating environmental regulations.

The decision to suspend CNPC’s oil operations last week, followed an official visit to the CNPC oil exploration site in the South Western town of Koudalwa, 200km south of the capital N’Djamena.

Chad began producing oil in 2003, with the completion of a pipeline costing US$4 billion, linking its oilfields to terminals on the Atlantic coast. Press TV reveals that official sources show Chad’s 2011 output as 120,000 barrels per day.

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Chad’s Oil Minister, Djerassem Le Bemadjiel, told state media that CNPC had been found to have “dug trenches and let oil flow into them, and then had it removed by local workers without protective gear”.

“Not only did they not have the equipment to clean up the oil that spilled out, but they intentionally let it spill in order to cut costs”, said Le Bemadjiel. “It’s a very serious situation, it’s intolerable”, he told Africa Review.  

CNPC managers are to be held responsible for the violations, but it is unknown how long operations will be suspended, reports Channel NewsAsia.

Chinese controversy

The state-owned Chinese corporation has explored for oil in Chad since 2009. The 2009 building of the pipeline caused controversy, with accusations that an environmental impact assessment had not been thoroughly conducted and local residents had not been properly consulted.

The CNPC refinery, Djermaya, in the capital N’Djamena, has also been closed twice before in disputes over pricing between the government and the Chinese oil corporation. Only last year, in January 2012, the government shut down the joint venture refinery for several weeks over local market prices, according to Reuters.

Le Bemadjiel has been quoted by a number of sources as announcing the full suspension of the corporation’s activities in the country this time round. However, China Daily argued that, despite international media reports, it was only confined to Greatwall Drilling Company’s operating site, leaving the Djermaya refinery in the capital unaffected.

China Daily
nevertheless emphasised advice by Liu Lide, an adviser to the Chinese African People’s Friendship Association and former Chinese ambassador to Mali, which highlighted the critical importance of both private and state-owned Chinese companies “fully understand[ing] the laws and working codes in specific African countries”. He argued that “many Chinese enterprises think African countries do not have a sound legal system, but this is not true”.

Natasha Howitt is an intern at chinadialogue