Chinese oil majors have long feasted on the country’s oil reserves, which Beijing essentially gives them for free, but CNOOC (HKEx: 883; NYSE: CEO) is quickly learning that nothing in life is really free as it and its partner grapple with a stubborn oil spill in the country’s Bohai Bay. In the latest setback for that project, being developed by ConocoPhillips (NYSE: COP) but 51 percent owned by CNOOC, China’s ocean watchdog has ordered the shutdown of two platforms at the field and an environmental official is calling the leak a “disaster” (English article). While ConocoPhillips is primarily responsible for dealing with this headache on the ground, which it appears to be doing responsibly with regular updates and efforts to plug the leaks, the problem will also deal a blow to CNOOC, as majority owner of a project which it has undoubtedly included in its future production plans. In a way, perhaps this development is fortuitous since ConocoPhillips is more skilled in crisis management than CNOOC or either of its peers, PetroChina (NYSE: PTR; HKEx: 857; Shanghai: 601857) and Sinopec (HKEx: 386; NYSE: SNP). But the crisis also should give investors cause for concern, as it’s inevitable that one or all three Chinese companies will inevitably have to deal with a similar crisis on its own in the next few years, and I suspect that none of the trio is well equipped to handle such an event when it happens, neither from a technical or public relations perspective. As these oil majors expand their operations abroad, a similar accident in less-friendly foreign waters could ultimately prove a disaster for any of the three, both in terms of clean-up costs and from a negative PR perspective. Let’s just hope that none has to deal with a BP (London: BP) Gulf of Mexico-type crisis anytime soon.
Bottom line: CNOOC’s ongoing oil spill in the Bohai Bay spotlights challenges that China’s oil majors will face with future such accidents, which they are ill equipped to handle.
中国石油巨头一直受益於中国的石油储备，因为这些储备属於由中国政府免费提供的。但中海油<0883.HK><CEO.N>及其合作夥伴在渤海漏油事件中发现，没有什麽是免费的。发生漏油的油田是由美国康菲石油公司<COP.N>进行开发，但51%的权益属於中海油，中国的海洋监管部门已经勒令关闭此处的两个钻井平台，一名环保官员称漏油事故是一场“灾难”。虽然要负主要责任的是康菲石油公司，但此事也无疑是对中海油的一个重创，中海油肯定将这个项目中纳入未来的发展计划。某种程度上来说，这种事态也是个幸运，因为康菲石油公司在危机处理方面肯定比中海油或者中石油<0857.HK> <PTR.N>以及中石化<0386.HK> <SNP.N>成熟。但这场危机也肯定会让投资者感到忧虑，因为未来几年，这几家公司肯定要自己独立处理类似的危机，但我觉得这几家公司都没有处理好类似危机的能力，无论是从技术上还是从公共关系上。随着这些石油公司在海外开拓市场，如果在一个不那麽友好的海域发生类似危机，那麽无论是从清理成本还是从公共关系的角度来说，这对於这些石油公司来说将必然是一场灾难。让我们祈祷这三家公司都不会遇到英国石油公司<BP.L>遇到的那种危机吧。
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