Published On: Mon, Jun 30th, 2014

“The future of Curacao is without refinery”

New Picture (20)On July 31, 1914 Mene Grande, an oil field near the Southeast coast of the Lake of Maracaibo was discovered by the Caribbean Petroleum Company, which later changed into Compañia Shell de Venezuela. On May 20, 1915 B.P.M. N.V. (Bataafsche Petroleum Maatschappij N.V. was set up. The same year it was decided that a refinery would be built in Curaçao. Three years later, on May 1918 the construction of the refinery was started. B.P.M. N.V. transferred her shares on January 13th 1917 to the Curaçaosche Petroleum Maatschappij N.V. in the Haque, which later, March 9th 1925 became the Curaçao Petroleum Industry Maatschappij N.V., (CPIM).

The first phase to build the refinery took six years. (1918 – 1924). During that time 1,000,000 ton of crude was imported. In 1924 the second phase was started. By 1930 CPIM employed more than 7880 people. Between 1930 and 1934 this record number dwindled to less than 2650 but slowly started to rise in 1935 when a third construction phase started, when the refinery started to concentrate on a higher quality of products including gasoline and greases. During that time jetties were constructed to facilitate transport fueling and bunkering facilities.

By 1938 the import of crude had increased more than ten fold to over 11 million ton. On January 1st 1961the sale and distribution was carried over to Shell Netherlands Antilles Distribution Company. The name CPIM slowly faded and the population used the name Shell. In 1967 Shell employed 3800 workers. After 67 years of operation Shell closed in 1985. During all those years the government never issued environmental or regulation guidelines or nuisance ordinances. Shell ran the refinery without any regulation or control up to its closing in 1985.

In 1985 PDVSA started to lease the Refinery for two periods of 5 years. In 1996 PDVSA agreed and negotiated a long turn contract for a period of 20 years (2014). PDVSA in its turn has to invest in mayor projects to reduce air pollution.

In 1996 PDVSA was issued a permit to operate without hindrance. (Hinderverordering) This hinderverordering had to be renewed every 5 years. It never happened. PDVSA still operates with an outdated hinderverordering. Government failed to issue PDVSA a new permit. The permit PDVSA received was supposed to be renewed in 2001 and in 2006 and again in 2011. It never happened.

In 2007 an inventory was made of all projects that were supposed to be installed that would lead to reduce pollution. The results were very poor. This has lead to 3 court cases against the PDVSA and the Government of the Curaçao, the mayor and only shareholder and owners of the refinery. PDVSA and the island Government were demanded to adhere to the environmental permits three times. Three times the court ordered PDVSA and the Island Government to adhere to the law. Three times PDVSA and the island Government of Curaçao lost against pressure groups. To no avail. The court accepted calculations and statistics that the refinery was a mayor contributor that leads to 18 premature deaths amongst the population of Curaçao three times. Still the government doesn’t do enough to reduce or stop this.

The maintenance of the refinery has been very sloppy at best and inadequate for the last 25 years. It has caused all kinds of accidents and mishaps, explosion, fire and accidents that have even lead to deaths.

While above reasons are enough to close the refinery we also have to think Global. We have to think about world’s problems like: global warming, climate change, the end of affordable extracting fossil fuel and new developments of sustainable energy. You soon come to the conclusion that now is the time to start planning to close the refinery.

Adequately planning to close the refinery in 2019, at the end of its operating contract, will put Curaçao in an advantageous position. The decision today, to close the refinery at the end of its contract in 2019 alone, will give a boom to land and real estate development on the West side of the refinery. Some, not all land, as we like to see mayor parts remain green-zones. The real estate of the refinery can be used to build a new city as more and more people are looking for property in, and close to town.

Closing the refinery will give Curacao the possibility to:Stop most of the air, land and water pollution on, above and around us. The emission of toxic gasses will stop, improving the health of our people Thousands upon thousands (10,000+) of permanent jobs will be created

The result of this economic impulse will bring lasting prosperity and increase income 20 fold. Nafls 500 Million.

“I worked a long time for the Shell. I really appreciate everything they have done for me and for my people. I am grateful that Shell has built whole new villages, like Emmastad, Juliana Dorp, Suffisant Dorp and the Schelpwijk.

They have built a hospital, at one time they had a small supermarket, Toko, they set up the Institute for the blind, operated open air theaters in Emmastad and Suffisant, sport complex Rust & Burgh and Asiento in Brakkeput. They took, but they also gave. The handling of the refinery is now in Venezuelan hands.

The collaboration that once existed between the Netherlands and Curaçao governments, local and Dutch expatriates is non existing or very poor. A few local people benefit from the refinery. A small group powerful commercial enterprises with their owners and corrupt government Managers are the new oligarchy families.

A few politicians openly employed and acting as lobbyist do all in their power to extend the contract and sell the refinery, the COT and its land to Venezuela interest.

The property, the real estate should never be sold, the refinery has to be closed, a new city should rise that benefit the local population – not the Venezuelan President”.

By Edgar Andres Leito,  former Head Firefighting, Head Environmental department

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