Rafael Ramírez definitively departs the reality-based community

It was nice while it lasted, but Venezuela’s minister of people’s power for oil and mining, Rafael Ramírez, has left us. He used to be considered a pragmatist and would offer plans that, while, ambitious, were often within the range of the human imagination. No more. Check out what’s happened to the oil output plans for state oil company Petroleos de Venezuela SA over the past eight years. The vertical axis is barrels per day. The lower left corner of each line is where the company says its starting out. The upper right end of the line is where it plans to end up, months or years later.

PDVSA oil output plans 2005-2013

First, there’s the obvious: That the dude has been making and failing to fulfill unrealistic plans for a long, long time.

But what interests me here is the ever steeper slope of these lines. The slope represents just how fast PDVSA has to bring on new production in order to fulfill plans. Until 2010, they were talking about boosting oil output dramatically. The most ambitious was the Plan Siembra Petrolera, shown here as a slightly bolder line, which proposed increasing output from 3.3 million barrels a day in 2005 to 5.8 million at the end of 2012. (Let’s not worry about whether the baseline numbers were real. I’m focused here on the ambitions.) The idea, in other words, was to increase by 1,000 barrels a day, every single day, for seven years. That, however, is doable. PDVSA has done it before.

For the most part, the announced plans were less ambitious:

742 new barrels a day, every day for five years.

490 new barrels a day, every day for 24 years.

850 new barrels a day, every day for 10 years.

Ambitious stuff, but vaguely, theoretically, possibly within reason.

And then you get to this year, and the numbers get utterly goofy. Here’s Ramírez en El Mundo at the beginning of August, saying oil output is at 3 million barrels a day and will be at 4 million at the end of 2014. That would require almost 2,000 barrels a day of new production, every day through the end of 2014. A new 200,000 barrel-a-day Orinoco Belt heavy oil project every 100 days. In the 85 days since that El Mundo article, Venezuela’s oil output should have increased by 170,000 barrels a day.

In fact, all of Ramírez’s recent statement indicate he has gone off the deep end. In every announcement this year, he has indicated that output will increase by more than 1,300 barrels a day, every day, for years on end.

Soon, we can expect Ramírez to announce that in the next six hours, Venezuela will increase its oil output to 8.4 million barrels a day. And then we can expect Wall Street bond vultures to scoop up the country’s bloody corpse and have themselves an oily feast, while people in red shirts blame the evil capitalists and saboteurs.

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13 thoughts on “Rafael Ramírez definitively departs the reality-based community

  1. Marianna Parraga

    Brilliantly written! I can’t wait for his next premonition (’cause it’s not longer a goal)

    1. sapitosetty Post author

      At the Singularity, that curve will pass vertical. At the Singularity, PDVSA accounting will join the Hive Mind. One more reason for me not to take part.

    1. sapitosetty Post author

      I made a spreadsheet of a dozen results for “pdvsa plans to” and similar search results in English and Spanish. Since Excel doesn’t have this sort of chart as an option, I just did it by hand in Illustrator. Whole project took an hour. It’s a bit rough, could be better, also could have links from each line to the original article, and be colour-coded based on the source, among other things. But it works, I just thought it was a quick way to show something simple. Turns out people like it!

  2. Kepler

    Brilliant. It is nice to see a journo doing this and more amazing to see it’s for free. No one in Venezuela’s newspapers seems to think Venezuelans can read charts.

    About tools: you might consider using R, it’s for free.

    I was going to do something about plotting the inflation forecasts by Merentes and the real ones but after Miguel wrote about it, I left it be.

    1. sapitosetty Post author

      Thanks – take a look at the sources, you’ll see that free was just the right price. This was never intended to be a scholarly post, it was just a trend that I’ve noticed over the years. It’s actually related to the Amuay disaster.

  3. Cesar

    Great post!, simple and very easy to understand, so far for those who knows the real situation of PDVSA. While Ramirez plans to raise up the oil production until 2014, the oilfield workers are pressed everyday to keep the daily-oil-rate production number to the top, in other words, as maintaining the daily oil production which is been affected by the increased oil requirement (damaging the wells, with no infrastructure or technology investment), been impossible to add more barrels everyday as you suggest in the post. So, I think this critical situation is only advertised by expert people, as it’s well known that all the oil experts (most) moved abroad since 2002, when PDVSA implanted new administration politics. Good post!!

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