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Guangdong Watchdog Backs Refinery Plan

Fiona Tam – SCMP – Updated on Mar 27, 2008

Guangdong environmental authorities say they will not stand in the way of a controversial US$5 billion oil refinery and petrochemical plant in Nansha despite opposition on ecological grounds.

Chen Guangrong, deputy director of the provincial environmental watchdog, said on Tuesday that the provincial authorities supported plans for the Sinopec-Kuwait Petroleum Corporation plant.

Mr Chen said the plant would have “significant strategic meaning” in securing the province’s energy supply and would fit in with Guangdong’s industrial strategy. But he said the Ministry of Environmental Protection had to give the final approval for the plant, a project that would also have a “significant impact on Guangdong’s environment”.

“As far as I know, the plant has not yet obtained the environmental impact assessment approval from the national watchdog, and won’t be allowed to start construction without it,” Mr Chen said.

However, mainland media reported that land requisition for the project had been under way in Nansha, a southern district of Guangzhou, since June.

The Southern Metropolis News suggested the project was proceeding against national regulations that all planned petrochemical projects must have an environmental impact assessment, as well as feedback from the public and experts.

The controversial plant was listed as a priority project in the province’s annual economic and social development programme in January but 14 Guangdong legislators have jointly urged the government to shelve the project because of environmental concerns.

Guangzhou Mayor Zhang Guangning said the government would reduce the plant’s output of pollutants with advanced equipment that met international standards.

“The reason we support this project is it helps control pollution and protect the environment,” Mr Zhang said.

He said the new technology applied at the Nansha plant could cut sulfur dioxide emissions by 80 per cent compared with existing petrochemical plants in Guangzhou.

Meanwhile, Guangdong’s environmental bureau said 14 cities in the province were afflicted with acid rain. In Guangzhou, 80 per cent of its rainfall was acidic. The province’s pollution-reduction efforts were well short of targets.

The Sinopec-Kuwait Petroleum plant, said to be the nation’s biggest joint venture, will emit 6,000 tonnes of sulfur dioxide every year in a region that is already notorious for its air pollution.

It is designed to be able to process 15 million tonnes of petroleum and 1 million tonnes of ethylene a year.

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