China Meeting

In October 2013, a GISR scientists Ping Chang, Piers Chapman, Rob Hetland, John Kessler, Scott Socolofsky and Terry Wade, along with Ed Buskey from the DROPPS consortium, travelled to Qingdao to take part in a workshop on Deepwater Oil Spills put on by the Cooperative Innovation Center of Marine Science and Technology of the Ocean University of China.Mandy Joye (ECOGIG) was also scheduled to take part but her participation was curtailed because of an impending visit by the GoMRI Research Board. Our host, Academician Lixin Wu, is well-known to the Department of oceanography at TAMU through his work on physical oceanography and climate modeling with Ping Chang.The International Symposium on Deep-sea Oil Spill and Offshore Oil-Gas Exploitation was held in Qingdao, China. (Photo courtesy of Ocean University China)

While most of us had a relatively uneventful trip over the weekend to Qingdao via Chicago and Beijing, John Kessler's travel encountered only setbacks. His first problem came when the airline cancelled his flight from Rochester, NY to Chicago. Rerouting via New York meant he missed his original connection in Beijing, but frantic emailing and phone calls between the U.S. and China during layovers between flights meant he could be booked on a later flight to Qingdao. However, nobody allowed for the flight from New York arriving late in Beijing, so that he was forced to find a hotel for the night and catch an early flight the next day. He eventually arrived just before lunch on Monday, looking none the worse for his experiences.

The meeting was organized to allow U.S. researchers to share their experiences of oil spills, in particular the Deepwater Horizon blowout, with Chinese researchers. In addition to the GoMRI researchers, other invited experts were Michel Boufadel (New Jersey Institute for Technology), Cort Cooper (Chevron), Ken Lee (CSIRO, Australia) and Steven Buschang (Texas General Land Office). On the Chinese side, we heard a welcoming video address by Mr. Guangqi Wu, Vice General Manager of the Chinese National Offshore Oil Corporation, as well as talks from Lijun Mi (CNOOC), Hui Wang (National Marne Environmental Forecasting Center) and several researchers from Ocean University who are working on various aspects of oil pollution.Dr. Piers Chapman (center), GISR consortium director and symposium co-chair responds to the introductory welcome on behalf of the overseas guests. From L to R, meeting host Academician Lixin Wu from Ocean University China (OUC); Mr. Huajun Li, Vice-president of OUC; and Mr. Qiang Wu, Secretary-General, Chinese National Marine Hazard Mitigation Service. (Photo courtesy of Ocean University China)

China has been drilling shallow wells in the Bohai Gulf and East China Sea, and has suffered at least two major spills of >1,000 tons oil in the process. While there is a national spill response group, which is planned to expand considerably, the country is not presently equipped to respond to a major deep water blowout, even though the Chinese started deep offshore drilling in the South China sea in May 2012. The country is, however, becoming very active in ocean observation, with a massive monitoring program ramping up in the South China Sea and additional monitoring planned for the East China Sea.

Rob Hetland (Professor of Oceanography at Texas A&M University) and Dr. Wensheng Jiang (Dean, College of Environmental Science and Engineering, OUC and Co-Chair of the symposium) discuss Hetland’s model of the Gulf of Mexico. (Photo courtesy of Ocean University China)Following the formal talks from both sides, we held a discussion session on major problems and unknowns. While there are many similarities between the East and South China Seas and the Gulf of Mexico (e.g., both suffer from tropical storms), there are also major differences, such as ice in the Bohai Gulf, much larger tidal ranges than in the Gulf of Mexico, or internal solitary waves, so mixing processes may be very different. The proposed South China Sea monitoring program, which includes 40 deep moorings, will certainly improve information on the physical oceanography of this area. Other points discussed included the possible use of inert tracers, integrated model suites, and  chemical analytical capability.

The group took time in the evenings to enjoy downtown Qingdao, (photo courtsey Piers Chapman)As usual, we were treated exceptionally well by our hosts, who treated us to some memorable meals and provided transport and touristic opportunities around Qingdao. The latter included visits to the Beer Museum (Qingdao's brewery was founded by the Germans at the beginning of the 20th century) and to the Laoshan Monastery, an oasis of calm on the coast outside the city. We are really appreciative of the hospitality shown to us during our short visit, and hope we can assist the Chinese as they confront the difficulties of deep offshore drilling around their coasts.

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