The oil spill at the Triste Gulf in Western Venezuela has yet to be resolved, according to Deputy Luis Stefanelli, who added that the origin of the incident could be the country’s only operating refinery.
The spill reportedly began between July 19 and 22, Eduardo Klein, Coordinator of the Simon Bolivar University’s Center for Marine Biodiversity indicated. The incident came to light following a social media campaign started by the Azul Ambientalista Foundation of August 2. Days later, on August 9, state-owned oil company Petroleos de Venezuela finally addressed the disaster.
A document signed by the Academy of Physics, Mathematics, and Natural Science and the Academy of Engineering and Habitat indicates that the spill in the marine-coastal habitat of the states of Carabobo and Falcon originated from the El Palito refinery.
Stefanelli, a member of the Parliament’s Economy and Petroleum Commission, published images that showed that the spill continued during the weekend. He also offered an explanation. “Every time the El Palito’s catalytic converter is turned on, it leaks and causes an oil spill. However, they cannot produce gasoline without it, so they continue regardless and are screwing up the environment,” he said.
The El Palito refinery is the only PDVSA plant that produces gasoline in Venezuela. Unofficial estimates indicate it produces around 35,000 oil barrels per day, not enough to cover the national demand.
Fuel scarcity is added to a long list of products, goods, and services that have virtually disappeared in Venezuela over the past 20 years. The gasoline currently being used by Venezuelans is the product of a 1.5 million-barrel purchase that Maduro’s regime paid to Iran in May. A week ago, the U.S. government seized four tankers that were allegedly transporting gasoline from Iran to Venezuela.
The damages caused by the oil spill are still unknown
According to the document prepared by the academies, the composition and the extent of the spilled hydrocarbons are so far unknown. There is also no information on the damage caused to natural resources and human activities in the area of the spill.
Nonetheless, it underlines a “particularly worrying” element. Through the tides, the spilled hydrocarbons could reach flooded areas in numerous estuarine water courses and river mouths located on the affected coast. These waters are used by the local population for mainly domestic and recreational purposes.
“The consequences of the damage caused transcend the environmental,” the document continues. It poses “a social and economic problem that affects a vast marine-coastal territory, so they should not be underestimated,” it adds.
The spill reached areas marked for protection, education, research, and recreation that protect “exceptional” biological, ecological, touristic, and economic resources. These include the Morrocoy National Park, formed by keys and islands of great beauty and one of the country’s main tourist destinations.
It also affected the Cuare Wildlife Refuge, which is home to about 300 bird species, as well as endangered reptiles and mammals.
The study conducted by Klein estimates the volume of the spilled oil at about 22,000 barrels. As of July 31, the stain in the Triste Gulf covered an area of about 350 km², with a linear extension of more than 50 km.
A second more heterogeneous stain appeared in aerial images taken on August 10-12. Between July 22 and August 10, there was hydrocarbon in the marine area near the El Palito refinery.
For more information, check Energía16