Chinese legislators are discussing a draft law on the protection of oil and gas pipelines, which, they say, are facing growing problems due to rapid urbanisation and the expansion of pipeline networks. China’s State Council (cabinet) official, Cao Kangtai, has told lawmakers the safety of oil and natural gas pipelines in China 'urgently needs protection' through legislation. A draft law on the protection of oil and gas pipelines was submitted to the 11th meeting of the Standing Committee of the 11th National People's Congress (NPC) for discussion on 27 – 31st October.
The pipeline situation in China
Due to the growing dependence on oil and gas, the total length of oil and gas pipelines in China has risen to 70 000 km from 22 000 km in 1997, stretching from oil and gas fields in western and northeastern regions to densely populated coastal areas in the east. China is currently working with Kazakhstan, Russia and Myanmar to build trans-regional pipelines. By the end of 2010, the network could exceed 90 000 km. As one of the five largest transportation methods, the pipeline network carries 70% of the country's crude oil, and 99% of its natural gas, thus playing an important role in economic development, national defence and social security.
Reasons for the legislation
'We need a special law to regulate and better coordinate pipeline construction with urban planning, to enhance protective measures, and to clarify responsibilities of different departments,' Cao Kangtai, Director of the State Council's Legislative Affairs Office, told the 11th meeting of the Standing Committee of the 11th National People's Congress (NPC), which is took place on 27 – 31st October. A document circulated at the meeting said the China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC), which owns 65% of the country's oil and gas pipelines, reported more than 36 000 cases of oil theft from pipelines between 2002 and 2006.
Surveys conducted by the CNPC and the China Petroleum & Chemical Corporation (Sinopec) in 2006 found about 15 000 buildings were illegally constructed above or near the pipelines. The network has been threatened by rampant theft of oil and gas through illegal siphoning on the pipelines, as well as possible terrorist attacks. Rapid urbanisation had resulted in the reckless construction of buildings and roads within buffer areas for the pipelines in recent years, making their protection increasingly difficult, According to Kangtai.
What the draft law involves
The draft law requires governments at different levels, particularly state and provincial-level energy departments, to enhance supervision of protection work. The draft also details the responsibility of enterprises that own and operate the pipelines, as well as the planning, the construction and protective measures. Those who steal from pipelines could face heavy fines of up to 10 times the value of the stolen oil or gas, according to the draft law.
The draft law would prohibit activities that could threaten the safety of pipelines, such as opening or shutting pipeline valves without authority, and moving, dismantling or drilling pipelines. Driving heavy vehicles where pipelines are buried, and removing or damaging signs on pipelines would also become criminal offences. Certain activities, such as mining, tree-planting, construction of buildings, blasting and digging near pipelines, must be done with official authority, according to the draft.