Crude spill hits sensitive Orinoco Delta in Venezuela - report

27 Jul 2022

Quantum Commodity Intelligence - A crude oil spillage from one of state-run PDVSA's joint ventures has hit an environmentally sensitive area in Venezuela's eastern region, according to a report carried by Reuters Wednesday.

The leak came from an oil well at the Pedernales shallow-water field in eastern Venezuela. It was initially flagged on Saturday, according to the report, citing sources with knowledge of the matter.

Photos released locally revealed a long oil slick close to fishing towns in the Orinoco Delta: "That area is dilapidated and abandoned. It has old rusty wells that still have crude trapped inside," one source told Reuters.

Oil spills and gas leaks have become common due to the lack of investment, particularly in maintenance projects, adding to the deterioration of PDVSA's ageing infrastructure.

The Orinoco Belt is known for producing some of the heaviest and dirtiest crude oil in the world, but due to sanctions and the cost of extraction, large swathes of production areas have been abandoned.

The region also contains the world's largest reserve of naturally occurring bitumen, which in the past was marketed as Orimulsion and used for power generation before being shunned due to its high level of carbon and other polluting emissions. 

At one point, Italy's Enel was the world's largest user of the trademarked Orimulsion, but in the late-1990s/early-2000s, the grade found buyers across Europe, Asia and the Americas.

The leaking platform belongs to PDVSA-controlled joint venture Petrowarao. Anglo-French oil company Perenco has a 40% stake in the largely idled project.

About a decade ago, before Venezuela's oil production collapsed, the Pedernales field produced about 5,000 bpd of crude, according to independent estimates. The field lacks electricity, adding to the locale's isolation, said the report.