A group of 21 Chinese firms are suing CNOOC Ltd and ConocoPhillips for compensation of over 141 million yuan ($22.80 million) for losses suffered due to oil spills at the duo's operations in 2011, according to court documents.
Leaks at the Penglai 19-3 oilfield, a joint exploration project by the two oil majors, were first discovered in June 2011. The spills polluted 6,200 square km of water in the Bohai Bay area before the field was finally sealed in late October that year.
The aquaculture farmers said ConocoPhillips and CNOOC failed to inform the public quickly about the spills, causing them to continue using polluted seawater in their sea cucumber farms, according to court documents posted on the Tianjin Maritime Court's microblog page on Wednesday.
Lawyers from ConocoPhillips China said the plaintiffs did not have legal certificates for seafood farming and that the compensation amount sought by the farmers was too high, according to court documents of the trial, which opened on Tuesday.
China's State Oceanic Administration ordered ConocoPhillips and partner CNOOC in April 2012 to pay 1.683 billion yuan ($272 million) in compensation for damage done to the region's marine ecology following the spill, as well as to fund environmental protection efforts in the Bohai Sea.
The oil firms had also reached an agreement with the Ministry of Agriculture in January 2012 to pay 1 billion yuan to settle compensation claims stemming from oil spills in north China's Bohai Bay.
ConocoPhillips has a 49-percent stake in the field, which is 51-percent owned by China's top offshore oil and gas firm CNOOC. The field, with daily production of about 160,000 barrels, was restarted in February 2013.
($1 = 6.1869 Chinese yuan renminbi)
Copyright Reuters 2014.
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