Opposition to PX plant in Zhangzhou and explosion accidents, Fujian, China

Accidents in PX plants are frequent. In 2013 and then again in 2015 the plant in Zhangzhou caused emergency evacuations. There are many unreported protests by local inhabitants during planning, construction and operation periods.


Description

A massive blast occurred at a paraxylene plant in Zhangzhou City in China’s Fujian Province in the evening hours on April 6, 2015. Some 29,096 people were evacuated due to chemical plant fire. Firefighters extinguished fire at the chemical plant on the Gulei Peninsula in Zhangzhou, southeast China's Fujian Province apparently on April 8, 2015, leaving 14 injured, almost two years after a similar accident at the plant had prompted a local official to promise in 2013 that it would never happen again[1]. An emergency headquarter has been set up after the explosion including environmental, maritime and meteorological experts to monitor readings of poisonous gas, toxic chemicals and industrial sewage. "No significant harm to the natural environment due to the explosion has been detected so far", according to a Xinhua report. Qin Tianbao, an environmental protection expert at Wuhan University, said that even though paraxylene has low toxicity, building such plants should be strictly regulated after an environmental assessment and public review[2]. However, it was reported that many seahorses died after the explosion[3]. The Zhangzhou PX project was originally to be located in Xiamen but the site of the plant was moved to Zhangzhou in 2008 after Xiamen residents protested the 10.8 billion yuan development on environmental grounds in 2007[4]. The Xiamen protestors gained a complete victory, however, vehement protests in new location failed to stop the project. In 2008 the Fujian provincial government opted to relocate the Xiamen project to Gulei. To avoid upsetting the public there was no mention of ‘PX’ and the government referred to it as the 'Gulei Major Chemical Project'. According to media reports, the Zhangzhou city government did everything in its power to find a home for the unpopular project, calling upon other local officials, the courts, and even the Communist Party’s disciplinary committee, to ensure the plans went ahead[5].   On February 29, 2008, before the two sessions of NPC & CPPCC, thousands of Dongshan people who are living in the neighboring area of Gulei went to streets to protest the relocation of the PX project rejected by Xiamen to Gulei peninsula, expressing their concern about the environmental impacts of the project. Several police vehicles were smashed, one protester died and several injured during the conflict[6].   January 2009, after the initial EIA of the project was issued by MEP, the plant was sited in the Gulei Economic Development Zone, which is located on a natural deep-water harbor about 100 kilometers south of Xiamen. Other petrochemical projects, including a 100-billion yuan petrochemical complex, a 38-billion-yuan ethylene cracker and a $950-million oil storage site, are also being developed in the industrial zone.   In June, 2012, local peasants and fishermen started to protest again on the injustice in land expropriation and unfair compensation for their land and their losing of livelihoods[7]. There are many land conflicts related the PX project, complains about the unfair compensations was reported through different online platforms. In January 2013, construction at the Zhangzhou plant was halted and the Xianglu Tenglong Group (翔鹭腾龙集团), the company developing the plant, was fined 200,000 yuan by the Ministry of Environmental Protection (MEP). The major investor in the project, Dragon Aromatics (Zhangzhou) Co., Ltd (腾龙芳烃(漳州)有限公司), a subsidary of Taiwan's Xianglu Tenglong Group, put in an application to alter the raw materials used in the plant. However, work on this section of the plant began before final approval had been given[8].   Another subsidiary of the group, Xianglu Petrochemicals (翔鹭石化), has also run into problems at it purified terephthalic acid (PTA) plant in Xiamen. Residents who live close to the plant frequently complain about a disturbing smell from the factory. The plant was reported to have been fined by the MEP when it first began production, but little has changed[9].    The first explosion ripped through this paraxylene (PX) plant in Zhangzhou on July 30, 2013. The 4.30am explosion occurred after hydrogen leaked from a pipeline's welding seam during a pressure test at the plant[10].   On June 29, 2014, authorities in the southeastern Chinese province of Fujian are holding nearly 30 people following clashes with angry local residents who blockaded a chemical plant accused of causing severe pollution near Zhangzhou city. The clashes came after riot police moved in to disperse thousands of residents of Xingzai village near Zhangzhou's Gulei township, who had been sitting in outside the paraxylene (PX) plant for several days. Photos of the scene posted online showed rows of riot police with shields, batons, and helmets facing off with a crowd of local people. Several thousand local residents began the sit-in, preventing the Gulei PX plant from operating normally, several days ago in protest at the pollution, saying it is compromising their health and that of their families.   After the second explosion, Dragon Aromatics (Zhangzhou) Co., Ltd took a second EIA for their production capacity change[11]. Most of the local residents were displaced due to the development of petro-chemical industry in Gulei Peninsula. 

Basic Data
NameOpposition to PX plant in Zhangzhou and explosion accidents, Fujian, China
CountryChina
ProvinceFujian
SiteGulei, Zhangzhou
Accuracy of LocationHIGH local level
Source of Conflict
Type of Conflict (1st level)Industrial and Utilities conflicts
Type of Conflict (2nd level)Chemical industries
Specific CommoditiesParaxylene
Chemical products
Project Details and Actors
Project DetailsParaxylene, or p-Xylene, is a mildly toxic hydrocarbon used in polyester manufacturing.

1) Production scale: planned 0.8 mt/a PX, changed to 160 mt/a according to a new EIA 2016;

2) Land occupation: changed to 163.3307 ha in 2016;

3) Total investment: The total investment of the original project is RMB 13.78400 billion (about USD 2 billion ), and the increased investment is RMB 4 billion, the total investment is RMB 17.784 billion;

4) Annual operating time: 8000 hours

5) labor capacity: 800 people.
Project Area (in hectares)140
Level of Investment (in USD)2,000,000,000.00
Type of PopulationRural
Potential Affected Populationmore than 35,000
Start Date29/02/2008
End Date08/04/2015
Company Names or State EnterprisesSinopec (China Petroleum & Chemical Corporation) from China
Fujian PetroChemical Co. Ltd (Fulian) from China
Xianglu Tenglong Aromatic PX (Xiamen) Co. Ltd. (Tenglong Group ) from China
Relevant government actorsProvincial government of Fujian

Zhangzhou Prefecture Government

Zhangpu County Level government

Ministry of Environment Protection

National Development and Reform Commission
The Conflict and the Mobilization
Intensity of Conflict (at highest level)HIGH (widespread, mass mobilization, violence, arrests, etc...)
When did the mobilization beginPREVENTIVE resistance (precautionary phase)
Groups MobilizingFarmers
Landless peasants
Fisher people
Forms of MobilizationPublic campaigns
Street protest/marches
Threats to use arms
Occupation of buildings/public spaces
Impacts
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Air pollution, Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Fires
Potential: Food insecurity (crop damage), Soil contamination, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Groundwater pollution or depletion
Health ImpactsVisible: Accidents, Exposure to unknown or uncertain complex risks (radiation, etc…)
Potential: Mental problems including stress, depression and suicide, Occupational disease and accidents, Other environmental related diseases
Socio-economic ImpactsVisible: Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors, Displacement, Loss of livelihood, Land dispossession
Potential: Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Specific impacts on women, Loss of landscape/sense of place, Other socio-economic impacts
Outcome
Project StatusUnder construction
Pathways for conflict outcome / responseDeaths
Migration/displacement
Repression
New Environmental Impact Assessment/Study
Do you consider this as a success?No
Why? Explain briefly.This project is the result of Xiamen anti-PX case, people in the beautiful peninsula living a peaceful farming and fishing life bear the social-environmental costs. They have never seen a victory of their protests over different issues.
Sources and Materials
Links

[4] Controversy over planned paraxylene (PX) plant in Xiamen, Fujian, China
[click to view]

[5] 邻避设施选址中的地方政府行为及社会动员模式研究
[click to view]

[3]漳州PX工厂爆炸追踪:当地曾下黑雨 有众多海马死亡
[click to view]

[1]Paraxylene chemical plant hit by blast in Zhangzhou City, Fujian province, China
[click to view]

[2] PX plant hit by blast
[click to view]

[8]Relocated PX project suspended in Zhangzhou
[click to view]

[9] Explosion Rocks PX Factory in Fujian
[click to view]

[10] Zhangzhou chemical plant blast highlights safety fears
[click to view]

[6] PX迁移福建漳州引发万人抗议
[click to view]

[7]福建古雷镇持续堵路 抗议PX征地补偿不公
[click to view]

[11] 腾龙芳烃(漳州)有限公司对二甲苯(PX)项目产能变更环境影响报告书
[click to view]

Other Documents

Firefighters putting off fire after explosion
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Police suppression over the protest by local residents against the pollution from the PX plant
[click to view]

Other CommentsAfter the success of Xiamen anti-PX movement, Zhangzhou suffered, this is typically NIMBYism.
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ContributorEnvJustice, ICTA
Last update18/04/2017
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