Monthly Archives: March 2012

Colombia blames Ecopetrol for pipeline explosion

This is the first time I’ve heard of a South American country really laying down the law on its state oil company for a deadly accident or environmental catastrophe. (See prior post for the opposite — a country that helps the state oil company cover up a disaster.) Colombia Reports has a good summary:

The Colombian Comptroller General rules negligence caused the fatal explosion of an Ecopetrol pipeline last December.

33 people, including a six-year-old girl, were killed and many homes destroyed when the pipeline ruptured in Dosquebradas, in the central western department of Risaralda.

Ecopetrol initially claimed the explosion was caused by someone drilling through the pipeline to steal oil, then later blamed landslides — but the Comptroller has now placed responsibility firmly on the company, stating it failed to carry out “timely maintenance.”

Now I know that Colombia gets a lot of flak for its human rights abuses and the ongoing killings of political organizers who oppose mines and other big projects. I am not holding up Colombia as the example for all nations to follow. But I think it’s worth a bit of thought — how is it that they have managed to create enough separation of powers that they can actually control state institutions? I don’t know much of the history of it, but it’s impressive.

PDVSA turning into a new Texaco?

This post from Lungs of the Earth needs to be read widely. You’ve probably heard about Amazonians in Ecuador who got polluted all to hell in the 70s by Texaco and PetroEcuador. You know, the ones who are trying to get billions of dollars out of Chevron to help pay for health care and a better cleanup. But for all the publicity of that case, there is a new environmental disaster happening in another beautiful, biodiverse corner of South America. And this time, some international attention could help stop the pollution sooner, before it gets too out of control.

As Lungs of the Earth documents:

An excellent story by David Gonzalez in El Nacional lays out the most glaring problem: at least two PDVSA managers refused to halt output even after the severing of a pipeline had been confirmed and a 30-meter column of oil was shooting into the air. They determined — I shit you not — that it would take too long to restart production if they shut it down.

Text message exchanges documented in a report acquired by an opposition legislator show Edgar Sifontes, Deputy Operations Manager for PDVSA’s El Furrial division, ordered employees not to shut the wells in because it would take some 20 days to get them back up and running. A second manager, Jose Marin, later refused orders from a higher-level PDVSA official to halt Jusepin’s output, citing an order by Sifontes. The result? The pipeline ruptured at 8:40 a.m., and the field was still producing as late as 3:30 in the afternoon. Who knows how much longer the oil continued spilling.

I spent a while trying to fathom what could justify such mind-boggling, reckless incompetence…

Much more, go read.

Setty recommends: MyCirqle energy pages

I saw today that an old pal of mine, Nate Johnson, has started editing at a startup called MyCirqle. I spent some time this evening writing him critiques of the site. One of them was that I already have plenty of info about energy from my various RSS feeds, twitters, and so on. But as I wrote, I realized that in fact MyCirqle’s energy pages fills a hole. I’m not aware of any other page that aggregates energy news from around the world and around the industry and does so in such a neat, reader-friendly way. I suspect I will be going there a lot, and I suggest you check it out.

I’m not getting any payment or other consideration from MyCirqle for mentioning them, and in fact they don’t know this post is coming. I just thought their site would be something you energy-heads might find useful. Check it out.

Venezuela oil spills roundup

Yes I’m all Venezuela all the time these days. There was a big, horrible oil spill in a Venezuelan river Feb. 4. I never finished any of my posts about it, and now Gustavo at Caracas Chronicles has a decent roundup of the current situation.

I would only add that whether the water is potable or not is just one of the big questions. Other issues include the cooperative cover-up efforts by the state oil company and its supposed regulators at the oil and environment ministries; the apparent lack of environmental monitoring of the river to, for example, count dead birds or evaluate whether endangered species were affected; and most of all, the continued politicization of what should be a general, apolitical task of the state — assuring a clean environment.

For those who haven’t seen it, I call your attention to this series of statements on the PDVSA website:

Feb. 5: Contingency in Jusepin doesn’t put the community at risk
Feb. 12: [Environment Minister] Alejandro Hitcher: “There’s no environmental disaster”
Feb. 15: PDVSA continues Guarapiche River cleanup
Feb. 16: PDVSA advances in Guarapiche River cleanup
Feb. 20: Guarapiche River cleanup in final phase
Feb. 20: More than 17 million liters of water distributed in Maturin communities
Feb. 24: Guarapiche River cleanup enters final phase (deja vu!)
March 1: Environment Ministry: Guarapiche River is in excellent condition

And this one, on the new leak in Anzoategui:

Feb 28: In record time, PDVSA controls leak caused by sabotage (which concludes, unsuprisingly, by saying that the cause of the leak wouldn’t even be examined until cleanup was complete, rather throwing into question the claim of sabotage)

Friday Frolics: PDVSA says privatization isn’t privatization

Bloomberg gets a very nice scoop, interviewing someone at PDVSA who explains more about the plans for publicly listed shares.

The operation would not be considered a privatization, as shares will be offered in a holding company created to manage PDVSA’s stakes in the joint ventures and not in the state oil company itself, the official said.

So, like when China listed PetroChina publicly, but not its controlling parent company, CNPC, that wasn’t a privatization? OK! Whatever you say, “company official.”

Another surprise here is that PDV may reduce its holdings in some joint ventures to 51%, just 4 years after PDV spent hundreds of millions of dollars to boost its holdings in these ventures to at least 60%.

ADDING: Hola, prensa venezolana, estás permitido cubrir estas noticias.

ADDING2: Devil’s Excrement blog had a good analysis/guess about this situation even in the absence of this new information. Take a look.

ADDING3: Via MexFiles, gotta love that this reaches people on March 3. An auspicious day.