The big honkin pipeline that carries natural gas from Chevron’s Ballena field in Colombia to western Venezuela blew up yesterday. This is a big deal for Venezuela’s state oil company, which needs natural gas in order to maintain oil output in the Maracaibo region. It’s a big deal for Venezuelan electricity consumers, who have come to depend on natural-gas-fired power plants. And it’s important for the chemicals industry of the Maracaibo region, as petrochemicals are made in large part from natural gas.
Of course, none of that shows up in the news articles about the explosion, which instead focuses on the possible involvement of Colombia’s left-wing guerrillas, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC. Of course if you believe the idea that Venezuela funds and offers refuge to the FARC, it doesn’t make much sense to think that they blew up the pipeline. For some reason the articles don’t mention the possibility that it was a bombing by someone who actually opposes Venezuela, like the right-wing guerrillas who persist in Colombia despite years of demobilization. And then there’s the most likely cause — the pipeline is operated by PDVSA, which isn’t all that great at oilfield operations these days. Gas pipelines, if mismanaged, can just blow up sometimes.
EDIT MARCH 29: Cops now saying that it was definitively a terrorist attack, caused by someone who excavated 5 feet into the ground to find the pipeline and put an explosive on it. They say the resulting fireball deforested a 700-foot radius. I wish there were some photos.