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Kuwait inspects oil facilities after fish deaths

A multi-agency task force Sunday began inspecting Kuwait Oil Company's industrial outlets...

A multi-agency task force Sunday began inspecting Kuwait Oil Company's industrial outlets to the Persian Gulf to determine the cause of the death of thousands of fish off Kuwaiti shores, a senior government official said. "Today, we began the investigation in North Kuwait at KOC's chemical and water outlets to the sea and of the plant and facilities used for its water injection process (to enhance oil production). We are taking samples, fish and water -- and we will inspect the water injection plant itself as well as the fields and the end products. All of it will be considered in our research," director-general of Kuwait's Environmental Protection Authority, Mohammed al-Sarawi told Platts by phone from the North Kuwait site.
Sawari is also spokesman for an emergency committee set up by the government to determine what caused more than 2,000 tons of dead fish to wash up on the Gulf state's shores in the past two weeks. Scientists and marine experts from the US, Britian, Denmark, Bahrain, as well specialists from the UN's FAO and UNDP continued to arrive to Kuwait Sunday to investigative what has become the worst environmental catastrophe to hit the Gulf state since the 1991 Gulf War. The US Department of Agriculture and Fish Resources is assisting. Sawari said all Kuwait's industrial outlets to the sea would be included in the inspection, but that the KOC investigation would come first. "After KOC we will move on to the Subiya power station," which sits at the entrance of Kuwait Bay, the area affected most by the fish deaths.

KOC and oil minister Adel al-Subih have issued statements defending KOC's dumping policy in North Kuwait after newspapers listed the types and quantities of chemicals which KOC uses in the water injection process. At least 11 members of parliament, scheduled to sit in October after a summer recess, have called for an emergency session Sep 8 to discuss the phenomenon. There will be bias to cross-examine Subih if oil sector involvement is confirmed, wrote al-Siyassa newspaper Sunday. Political insiders said Subih could become "an unfair political target" for what would be his second grilling by the house. KOC's North Kuwait water injection plant opened before Subih became oil minister last February. Subih survived a confidence vote and cross-examination during his term as electricity minister.

Sawari and other EPA officials said water and fish samples sent to a Japanese laboratory indicated high atmospheric temperatures most likely contributed to the fish deaths. "But we are seriously looking for other causes that would induce bacteria growth and oxygen depletion," said Sarawi. Kuwait's northern oil production increased by around 50,000 b/d to around 600,000 b/d as a result of water injection. Meanwhile Iran denied a report in a Kuwaiti newspaper speculating that the fish kill might have been caused by nuclear material accidentally leaked from its Bushehr nuclear power station. A spokesman for Iran's Atomic Energy Organization said such a leak would be impossible since no nuclear material had been transported to the power station yet, Iranian state-run radio reported as monitored by the BBC.