BEIJING (Reuters) - A Chinese court has ordered ConocoPhillips (COP.N) to pay compensation to nearly two dozen aquaculture farmers who said their livelihoods were hurt by oil spills off China’s northeastern coast in 2011.
The U.S. oil company was told to pay 1.68 million yuan ($266,000) to the 21 farmers, who did not participate in a previous settlement reached in 2012 with ConocoPhillips and its partner, Chinese state-owned oil major China National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC), the Tianjin Maritime Court said in a statement on its website.
The farmers were seeking more than 141 million yuan ($22 million) from the two oil companies over leaks that were first discovered in June 2011 at the Penglai 19-3 oilfield, a joint exploration project by the two.
The leaked oil spread across as much as 6,200 sq km of water in Bohai Bay, according to court documents. The spills were sealed in October 2011, and the field, with daily production of about 160,000 barrels, was restarted in February 2013.
ConocoPhillips has a 49-percent stake in the field, which is 51-percent owned by CNOOC Ltd (0883.HK), the Hong Kong-listed flagship of CNOOC.
The court laid responsibility for compensation solely with ConocoPhillips, the operator of the oilfield.
The two companies previously agreed to give one billion yuan in compensation for losses in the fishing industry, and 1.68 billion yuan for ecological damages in a settlement with Chinese authorities. Roughly 4,500 affected households signed onto the settlement, the court said.
ConocoPhillips could not immediately be reached for comment.
Another maritime court, in the coastal city of Qingdao, said in July that it will hear a landmark case brought by a nonprofit organization against ConocoPhillips and CNOOC over the spills.
($1 = 6.3180 Chinese yuan)
Reporting By Adam Rose; Editing by Tom Hogue