Monthly Archives: August 2010

Venezuela falls behind on new power plant goals

Memory, all alone in the moonlight.

Old-timers might remember this picture from the halcyon days of May. It shows the schedule for bringing new or restored generation on line in Venezuela over the course of 2010. The hand in this photo is the president of Venezuela.

The Centro Nacional de Gestion, Venezuela’s grid manager, published its July monthly report a few days ago. It tracks nominal generating capacity:
January 23,794.5 MW
July 24,413.4 MW
Change = 618.9 MW, a 2.6% increase

So the total incorporated this year is still less than what they said they had “inaugurated” by the end of April.

Venezuela faces looming threat of normalcy

OK not everywhere, but in a few areas:

The Isla refinery, operated by PDVSA, is supposed to start up Wednesday. I’m not holding my breath, as I don’t live downwind. If they can do it, that’s pretty nifty, the gigondo refinery has basically been idle since the end of February for lack of steam pressure from the adjacent “BOO plant,” a privatized utility plant. Mitsubishi and Mitsui managed the place so badly that even the usually chilled-out Curacao government and residents got sick of them and there is now nationalization talk in the air. Six months is a long time to be without your biggest productive business and biggest employer.

Don’t tell the newspapers, but I give Guri Lake about 10-12 days before they have to open the floodgates. As in, it’s full, no more room at the inn, dump that water into the (oops!) already swollen Orinoco. Before you write in, yes, I know: this doesn’t mean there’s a healthy and happy electricity situation in the Bolivarian Republic. Transmission is a mess, and the dam is only full because Sidor and Venalum remain basically shut down, and there is still rationing all over the rural west. Not the best way to save energy and dam water. Still, pretty impressive that here a few months ago there was worry that the dam would end the year at a lower level than it started. In fact it’s now at a higher water level than it ever attained in 2009.

Our now customary chart:

Election season is going, and it seems the so-called opposition is following my lead and not talking very much about the president. OMG is it possible there is more to Venezuela than one dude with two chins?

I’m not terribly worried about this normalcy threat. It’s always interesting times in Caracas.


All these mine disasters and elections and such are keeping me busy. Light posting for a while. If you’re in the north, enjoy the end of your summer vacation. If you’re in the south, welcome to spring. If neither? Get out and enjoy your perpetual summer. Hasta pronto.

The most snarkworthy?

I try to keep this site focused on oil and other natural resources but once in a while I need to snark off. Luckily I know Venezuela pretty well, and its veins of snarkery make the Orinoco Belt and Las Cristinas look like minor deposits. However there are governments in the Americas even more snarkworthy. The latest carload from the Honduran snarkmine:

The Lobo government is complaining that a gift from Venezuela of $100 million to help in disaster preparedness was “diverted” for use in the presidency. Continue reading

And there was much rejoicing

President with note from miners

Long-awaited (stolen from La Tercera, click for original)

Rescue efforts for the 33 miners trapped 700 meters (1/2 mile) underground for 17 days in CopiapĂł, Chile paid off today. A drill with a 20-cm (8-inch) bit aiming for the workers’ refuge point popped through to a cavity. It was unclear whether it was another false hope — the last time a drill hit a cavern, it turned out to be full of rubble with no sign of life. The workers stopped the drill and banged on it. Soon enough they heard what sounded like people banging back at them. The voices of reason cautioned that the sounds could have been any number of things, but the drillers were convinced it was the miners. Ehey pulled out the drill bit so as to send down a camera and the first batch of relief — water, food, medicine. The drillbit came back with a baggie glued onto it, and inside the baggie a note: “Estamos bien en el refugio los 33.” That is, “We’re fine in the refuge the 33.”
Continue reading

Jamaica to privatize refinery — but to whom?

The Jamaica Observer points us to an IMF report (PDF) on Jamaica that says (p. 51) that the government will sell off its stake in the Petrojam refinery, a joint venture with PDVSA that has had an expansion plan on the books for since 2006.

The government stands ready to hand over its majority stake in Petrojam by selling shares to PDVSA of Venezuela to allow it to increase its stake in Petrojam from 49 percent to 51 percent. Petrojam will seek to move forward with the expansion and modernization of the refinery involving investments of US$1.3 billion over a three-year period. However, in contemplating the funding for the project, the government remains fully committed to refrain from any direct or indirect borrowing by any public sector institution, including the extension of guarantees. Over time, the government is prepared to reduce its remaining interest through the direct sale of shares to PDVSA or other potential investment partners. As PDVSA makes new equity investments in the refinery project, the Jamaican government’s equity participation will continue to be reduced accordingly

In case you were wondering, PDVSA has no money to buy out this refinery. Continue reading

Chile’s free-marketeers face first Dutch Disease test

Chile’s peso has been surging on a combination of factors, including rising copper prices, a recent dollar-bond sale, a need for international investment for earthquake recovery, and a “flight to safety” as investors seek stable places to stash their money amid turbulent times. Exporters of goods other than copper, such as Chilean sea bass and organic blueberries, started raising hell weeks ago because they end up with fewer pesos for their dollars, and hence less money to pay their workers, pay the electricity bill, or have a nice dinner of Chilean sea bass and organic blueberry tart. (Hah, just kidding, those products aren’t available in Chile no matter how many pesos you’ve got.)

The risk in this sort of situation is that a country with one really big, high-priced import can develop what’s known as Dutch Disease, but which writer Lisa Marginelli said should really be called Caracas Cough, since Venezuela had it long before Holland.
Continue reading

Venezuela roundup

Everything in Venezuela is rising!
Look, the economy shrank much less than expected. (Not exactly a rise, but less of a fall.)
Look, the murder rate climbed in 2009 to 75 per 100,000, also known as 19,000 murders.
Look, Venezuelans on vacation in Spain danced with Shakira. (That’s been the front page story for a day at The paper, which is normally Venezuela’s finest death porn, didn’t print a word on the government’s decision to ban publication of violent photos, but has now posted a state newswire article about the decision to rescind that order.)
Look, pasteurized cheese prices double in a week.
Look, more PDVSA bonds supposedly on the way.
Look, this day in 1799, Alexander von Humboldt noticed that the salt works at Araya were bleak.
Continue reading