China's State Council, its Cabinet, has punished 64 people for four accidents at top energy group CNPC, including a pipeline blowup in the northeast port of Dalian last year that caused a major oil spill.
Top CNPC executives, including Chairman Jiang Jiemin and several of Jiang's deputies, have received warnings or "demerit" marks -- affecting their chances of promotion -- Xinhua News Agency said on Thursday.
Among the 64, 14, including officials from local firms that provided services to CNPC's oil facilities when the explosions occurred, were suspected of criminal acts and have been handed over to the judicial departments for criminal charges, Xinhua said.
Dalian, an oil and petrochemical hub, has since July last year come under the spotlight after a string of explosions and fires at oil facilities operated by PetroChina, CNPC's listed vehicle.
Chinese regulators have struggled to keep up with the rapid pace of industrial growth of the world's second-largest economy and have sometimes been powerless and slow in enforcing laws that would help prevent accidents and pollution.
In August, CNPC removed the general manager of the Dalian refinery from his post following a second fire at the plant in less than two months.
The plant has a 400,000 barrels-per-day crude refining capacity, PetroChina's largest.
On July 16, 2010, two crude oil pipelines in Dalian port operated by PetroChina blew up after a crude vessel discharged oil into the pipes, and caused a huge oil slick in the sea and forced the temporary closure of the port.
The accident, which killed and injured several, caused a direct economic loss of 223.3 million yuan ($35 million), Xinhua said.
In the long list of executives under punishment, Wang Lihua, president of PetroChina International, also known as Chinaoil, PetroChina's oil trading arm, received an "administrative" demotion -- affecting some of her benefits -- and a severe warning, Xinhua said.
The government has said 1,500 tonnes of oil was spewed into the sea but environmental group Greenpeace estimated the leak at up to 60,000 tonnes.