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35,000-Barrel Oil Spill Prompts Urgent Cleanup In Kuwait

An oil spill into Kuwaiti waters prompted an emergency cleanup over the weekend, with media reports saying it all will be over this week. While some sources attributed the spill to a pipeline leak, estimating the amount that spilled into the Persian Gulf at 35,000 barrels, there has been no official confirmation on the size or cause of the accident.

The spill occurred near Ras al-Zour, in southern Kuwait, Reuters reports, where Kuwait National Petroleum Company is currently building the biggest oil refinery in the Middle East, capable of handling 615,000 barrels of crude daily and with US$11.5 billion in contracts. The project is worth US$30 billion.

The spill is also near an offshore field that is developed jointly by Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, in their neutral zone. The field, Al Khafji, has a 50-km pipeline running to the coast and it was this pipeline that some industry experts said was the culprit for the spill.

According to TankerTrackers, the free cargo-tracking website, visual data from Planet Labs shows that most of the spill has already been cleaned up as of Monday morning, GMT. Just a day ago, streaks of oil could be seen well into the Persian Gulf and had affected beaches frequented by many Kuwaitis during the summer months.

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The head of the Kuwaiti Environment Public Authority, Sheikh Abdullah al-Sabah, told the Associated Press, "There will be severe consequences to those responsible for this incident, and we will prosecute them."

The cleanup measures prioritized nearby waterways, water facilities, and power plants, according to reports by Kuwait’s state news agency KUNA. Chevron, which operates fields in both Kuwaiti and Saudi waters, along with specialist firm Oil Spill Response Limited, are helping the Environment Public Authority in the cleanup.

By Irina Slav for Oilprice.com

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