BEIJING, Sept 4 (Reuters) - China has ordered oil firms to fix faults in their oil and gas pipeline networks within three years, Sinopec Corp said on Thursday, almost a year after a blast in the state-run refiner's pipeline killed 62 people.
This is the first time a deadline has been imposed on oil firms to rectify the long-standing safety problems in their pipelines, which could increase the costs to deliver oil and gas.
China uncovered nearly 30,000 risks in its oil and gas pipeline sector during a nationwide safety probe launched at the end of 2013, Sinopec quoted a notice from the State Administration of Work Safety as saying.
The administration called for accelerating rectification in the oil and gas pipeline sector and making efforts to complete fixing the problems by June 2017, Sinopec said on its website (www.sinopecnews.com).
The State Administration of Work Safety, an agency directly under China's State Council and responsible for safety regulation in the country, could not be immediately contacted.
Sinopec said the State Council, or cabinet, will set up an institute guiding the rectification work. National oil and gas companies and local governments will also set up their own offices for it, it said.
Oil and gas firms should "remove hidden dangers" that can be fixed by themselves within one year.
For the problems that cannot be resolved by them alone, such as change of urban pipe layout or resettlement of residents who live too close to energy pipelines, oil and gas companies should report to the local governments to coordinate, it added.
China has 655 trunk oil and gas pipelines with a total length of 102,000 kilometers. Some of them have been operating for as long as 40 years, making them vulnerable to corrosion.
The explosion last November at the Dongying-Huangdao II pipeline owned by Sinopec was attributed by the government to pipeline corrosion, irregular work practices and a tangled network of underground pipes.
The case highlights the risks involved as both energy pipeline networks and China's cities expand rapidly. Urban development has engulfed many existing pipelines, providing an opportunity for thieves but also leaving lines dangerously close to residents, industry and commerce. (Reporting by Judy Hua and David Stanway; Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman)