Monthly Archives: July 2013

Reich vs the Derwick guys: A huge wait-and-see

Three alleged leaders of Derwick Associates, a company that won several procurement and construction contracts from Venezuela’s state oil company in 2009-2010 are being sued in US district court in New York by former ambassador Otto Reich. Reich alleges that the Derwick paid kickbacks to powerful Venezuelans including Oil Ministers Rafael Ramírez, and also spread lies to interfere with Reich’s business. The lawsuit names Leopoldo Alejandro Betancourt Lopez, Pedro Jose Trebbau Lopez, and Francisco D’Agostino Casado† as defendants. The first two have long been associated with Derwick in news articles. D’Agostino is better known to the society pages; he is a finance guy with an office in Panama. I had no idea he was linked to Derwick, and the complaint doesn’t provide proof. (Alek Boyd has a bit more on him here.)

Reich was a US diplomat to Latin America during the Reagan-Bush years, including a stint as ambassador to Venezuela, and was the Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs under George W Bush.

Derwick Associates is a small company that gets electricity industry construction contracts in Venezuela and then outsources the work, largely to ProEnergy Services of Sedalia, Missouri. It also works with General Electric and Pratt & Whitney, according to the complaint. I’ve written herehere and here about Derwick. The company has been the subject of investigative reports by César Batiz in Venezuela, alleging overcharging and possibly  and the company’s ham-handed reputation management got the attention of blogger Alek Boyd. I also wrote about the company when its lawyers sent me a note demanding I take down a blog post. I didn’t remove it and I never heard back from them.

The lawsuit starts with its biggest claim: that Derwick paid bribes, via intermediaries to Venezuelan Oil Minister Rafael Ramírez, former Basic Industries Minister Rodolfo Sanz, and a relative of an executive at state electricity company Corpoelec. One of the intermediaries was allegedly Nervis Villalobos, who previously appeared in Batiz’s article about Derwick’s planes, as having possibly traveled alone on a plane owned by Derwick.

Quoting from the suit itself: Continue reading

Otto Reich sues Derwick Associates execs, alleging racketeering

I have an unconfirmed lawsuit in which Otto Reich appears to be is suing three people allegedly connected to Derwick Associates, for racketeering. Will be posting much more on it bright and early. Here’s the suit, in case you’re wondering.


Also yes, if you are on my e-mail subscription list, you received a teaser of what I’ll be publishing. Sorry for taking it down for now — no sense running a whole analysis of a suit if I’m not 100% sure it’s real. Sure looks real, though, don’t it?

(Updated 31 July 2 pm EDT after confirming suit was really filed in NY.)

Much more detail & analysis here.

Canada pioneers new kind of oil spill — will Colombia, Venezuela keep up?

Turns out that when you inject high-pressure steam into heavy oil reservoirs underground, you can’t always predict which way the oil will go.

Oil spills at a major oil sands operation in Alberta have been ongoing for at least six weeks and have cast doubts on the safety of underground extraction methods, according to documents obtained by the Star and a government scientist who has been on site.

Canadian Natural Resources Ltd. has been unable to stop an underground oil blowout that has killed numerous animals and contaminated a lake, forest, and muskeg at its operations in Cold Lake, Alta.

The documents indicate that, since cleanup started in May, some 26,000 barrels of bitumen mixed with surface water have been removed, including more than 4,500 barrels of bitumen…

The company says it is effectively managing and cleaning up the spills.

The company’s operations use an “in situ” or underground extraction technology called “cyclic steam stimulation,” which involves injecting thousands of gallons of superhot, high-pressure steam into deep underground reservoirs. This heats and liquefies the hard bitumen and creates cracks through which the bitumen flows and is then pumped to the surface…

“We don’t understand what happened. Nobody really understands how to stop it from leaking, or if they do they haven’t put the measures into place.”

This might explain why Maracaibo has had so many mysterious oil slicks in recent years, when state oil company PDVSA has insisted that its pipelines aren’t leaking. (Here’s one from 2012.) There is a lot of steam injection into fields under the lake.

Also, heavy oil fields in the Colombian llanos (wet plains) are slated for “enhanced recovery” that may at some point include steam injection. I hope this situation in Alberta is taken as a lesson.