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Oil firms in China come under fire
by Staff Writers
Beijing (AFP) July 17, 2011

Colombia offers reward to find abducted Chinese
Bogota (AFP) July 16, 2011 - Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos offered a reward Saturday for anyone providing information leading to the arrest of a woman rebel allegedly linked to the kidnapping of four Chinese oil workers.

Santos said a reward of up to 500 million pesos (about 285,000 dollars) was available for helping land the arrest of the rebel known as Claudia, with the Marxist Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). Colombian authorities blame her for the abductions.

The four men, who are employees of the British oil company Emerald Energy a subsidiary of Sinochem, were kidnapped by at least seven armed men wearing civilian clothes June 9.

They were traveling in a region where the FARC are especially active, near the town of San Vicente del Caguan, in the southern Caqueta region.

"Claudia," whose real name is Maria del Carmen Perez, 35, has been a rebel for 19 years. Authorities say she is a leader of an elite FARC unit.

The FARC, which has been at war with the Colombian government since 1964, is the country's oldest and largest leftist group, with an estimated 8,000 combatants.

Last year, 282 people were kidnapped in the South American country -- a 32 percent increase compared to the previous year, according to official figures.

Criminals were responsible for most of the kidnappings -- 57 percent -- compared to 35 percent for leftist guerrillas.

Earlier this year, Santos warned multinational companies they would be kicked out of the country if they paid ransoms to rebel groups or other criminal gangs that have kidnapped their employees.

Chinese netizens and a state press report on Sunday questioned safety standards at oil firms after a fire erupted at a plant owned by state-run CNPC -- the industry's fourth incident in six weeks.

The country is still grappling with a huge oil spill off its eastern coast that has now contaminated an area around six times the size of Singapore, and another separate slick and fire have also tarnished the industry's image.

In the latest incident, a leak from a piece of oil refining equipment caught fire Saturday at a plant owned by state-run China National Petroleum Corp (CNPC), the country's biggest oil producer.

The company said in a statement Sunday the fire in the northeastern port city of Dalian had been put out, there were no casualties and tests showed the surrounding sea had not been polluted.

The fire came exactly a year after two pipelines exploded at an oil storage depot also owned by CNPC in the same city, triggering a devastating spill.

The government estimated about 1,500 tonnes of oil poured into the Yellow Sea, but Greenpeace said up to 60 times more may have escaped.

The state-run Beijing News on Sunday quoted anonymous people at the CNPC refinery as saying the workshop where the fire broke out had just been serviced.

It added the plant where this weekend's incident happened was close to the depot where the spill happened last year.

"Some observers are pointing out that the frequent incidents to have hit oil firms recently may not be unexpected, and loopholes in the firms' safety and production management need to be seriously examined," the report said.

Netizens -- already incensed about the oil spill off the east coast which was kept secret by authorities for several weeks before being made public this month -- also expressed anger at the latest embarrassing mishap.

"What is this? No doubt the fire erupted to test whether those who inspected the workshop were lazy...," one online user on popular web portal Netease.com said.

CNOOC, the state-owned oil giant accused of covering up the big spill, this month also had to clean up another small slick after a breakdown at one of its rigs.

In a separate incident, a CNOOC refinery in the southern province of Guangdong, located near the Daya Bay nuclear power plant, caught fire earlier this month.

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Police break up new anti-China demo in Vietnam
Hanoi (AFP) July 17, 2011 - Vietnamese police rounded up at least 10 people as they forcibly broke up an anti-China rally on Sunday after a series of protests over tensions in the South China Sea.

Around 50 demonstrators, greatly outnumbered by the security forces, were stopped and forced to disperse after they gathered close to the Chinese embassy in the capital Hanoi.

"Down with China! Down with arresting patriotic people!" shouted the protesters as they waved banners denouncing Chinese "violations" of Vietnamese sovereignty.

It was the seventh in an unprecedented series of protests -- uncommon in authoritarian Vietnam -- that have taken place in Hanoi on recent weekends during an escalating maritime dispute in the South China Sea.

The two communist neighbours have long been at odds over the potentially oil-rich Paracel and Spratly island groups, which straddle vital commercial shipping lanes in the South China Sea.

Authorities in Hanoi allowed the first five protests to proceed without incident, but briefly detained 10 people, including journalists, during the rally last Sunday after talks with China in Beijing on June 25.

At the meeting, both sides agreed to resolve their territorial disputes peacefully. Beijing and Hanoi "also laid stress on the need to steer public opinion in the correct direction", the official Vietnam News said.

Tensions flared in May when Vietnam said Chinese marine surveillance vessels cut the exploration cables of an oil survey ship and Hanoi has accused its neighbour of harassing Vietnamese fishing boats in the disputed waters.

On Friday Vietnam and the United States began a joint naval drill in the South China Sea, despite Chinese objections.

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South Korea sells Brazilian oil leases
Seoul (UPI) Jul 14, 2011
South Korea's SK Group, the country's fourth largest conglomerate is preparing to sell three offshore oil field concessions in Brazil for $2.4 billion. The deal represents a healthy profit for the SK Group, as it is triple the amount the SK Group paid for the concessions in 2000 and 2004. SK Group Chairman Chey Tae-won's aggressive overseas resource development strategies have pa ... read more

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