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Venezuela’s Oil Crisis Is An Environmental Time Bomb | OilPrice.com


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The international media think tanks and government agencies have discussed at length the near failure of Venezuela, once Latin America’s most stable and developed nation, and the emergence of this century’s second-worst humanitarian crisis. The country’s implosion can be blamed upon a variety of factors, the key being the socialist Maduro regime’s gross mismanagement of its economic engine, Venezuela’s oil industry. While the economic, political, and humanitarian fallout from what can only be described as the world’s worst peacetime economic crisis is widely recognized, the environmental consequences have long been ignored. The rapid and what appears to be the increasingly irreversible collapse of Venezuela’s leviathan oil industry as well as related infrastructure has caused a range of environmental incidents. It wasn’t until the U.S. Embassy in Trinidad and Tobago issued a statement concerning the environmental risks posed by the Venezuelan-flagged floating and storage offloading vessel Nabarima, that attention was directed to the environmental crisis engulfing Venezuela. The Nabarima, floating in Venezuela’s Gulf of Paria, was listing badly sparking fears it could dump its crude oil cargo of 1.3 million barrels into the Caribbean sea potentially triggering an environmental disaster worse than the Exxon Valdez oil spill 31 years ago. Many international commentators and observers fail to comprehend is the scale of the environmental tragedy unfolding in Venezuela. According to the English language independent Venezuelan news outlet Caracas Chronicles, oil spills are a regular part of life on the Carabobo coastline. Those spills are blamed on the 140,000 barrel per day El Palito Refinery in Puerto Cabello Carabobo state. The pollution is so severe a fisherman who regularly sails off Puerto Cabello was quoted in the Caracas Chronicles saying he must remove pollution from the fish he catches and oil comes out of their mouths. During August 2020, the opposition-controlled National Assembly investigated an oil spill that affected Morrocoy National Park that linked to the El Palito refinery. It is claimed that El Palito experienced three oil spills this year and they are caused by overflowing disposal wells due to equipment failures within the refinery’s catalytic cracking plant.

There have been frequent allegations of oil seeping from abandoned and poorly maintained wells and pipelines, bubbling to the surface in towns and smearing buildings and roads in a noxious smelling black residue where PDVSA has operations. It is the appalling state of Venezuela’s steadily crumbling petroleum infrastructure which is to blame. Localized pipeline explosions and leaks are also a regular occurrence as is noxious gases escaping from refineries with many, including smaller oil spills, linked to the 940,000 barrel per day Paraguana Refining Complex. It was the 630,000 barrel a day Amuay refinery, which along with 305,000-barrel Cardon forms the complex, that experienced an explosion in its distillation unit last month. While…

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