In this article, you will get all information regarding Orinoco belt: Venezuela awaits oil investments in a region rich in biodiversity – Diálogo Chino – OLTNEWS

The projection is that 3 million barrels of crude oil could be extracted from this field per day for the next 300 years, according to estimates published by the state oil company Petróleos de Venezuela (PDVSA). According to PDVSA, this giant oil field could accommodate nearly 11,000 oil wells, some 282 simultaneous drillings, and would require 2,470 kilometers of pipeline to maximize operations.

The potential of the Orinoco belt was first explored in 1936, but it was not until the presidency of the late Hugo Chávez (1999-2013) that the process of certifying oil reserves began. This process culminated in nationalization in 2007 and the awarding of concessions to foreign oil companies such as Chevron (USA), Rosneft (Russia), Total Energies (France), Eni (Italy) and Repsol (Spain) . Together with these foreign companies, Venezuela has worked to build two crude oil upgrading plants to process the extra-heavy oil in the belt.

After these companies left the country due to the economic crisis, as well as the abandonment of investments and sanctions imposed by the United States, reaching a production of 3 million barrels per day is now far for Venezuela.

Secondary OPEC sources – which include bodies such as S&P Global, Argus Media, the Energy Intelligence Group and the International Energy Agency – reported production of 723,000 barrels per day by PDVSA. in August, more than half of which came from active wells in the Orinoco Belt.

While the public search for investors focuses on expanding oil production, it has simultaneously reignited the debate around the conservation needed in this region of Venezuela.

A reservoir of biodiversity

The vast area covered by the Orinoco Belt is almost comparable to the 60,000 square kilometers that were added to the Galapagos Marine Reserve this year, to better protect tropical Pacific species.

When the size of the belt is discussed, however, relatively little mention is made of its status as one of the largest wetlands on the South American continent, Antonio Machado Allison, a biologist at the Academy of Physical, Mathematical, and of Caracas, told Diálogo Chino. He pointed out that it is comparable to the most famous marshes of the Brazilian Pantanal.

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The Orinoco belt is located in an area created by the accumulation of Andean sediments, in a process in which the main protagonist was water. The Orinoco is not only the third largest river in the world, it is also the key to understanding a key biological dynamic for the whole planet.

“Its relevance comes from the fact that it is where a large part of the migratory birds of North America go. It is a reservoir for the great diversity of Venezuelan species, but also for an international diversity for which Venezuela is responsible,” explained Machado Allison, who is also a professor in the School of the Environment at Wesleyan University.

The dickcissel (American Spiza), for example, is one of those birds that migrates annually to the Orinoco basin and has its breeding grounds in the central United States. Other bird species that live in this wetland include the scarlet ibis (Eudocimus ruber) and the blue and yellow macaw (Ara ararauna).

Reptiles found in the region include the Orinoco crocodile (Intermediate Crocodylus), a critically endangered species whose population has been decimated by indiscriminate hunting, and the Arrau tortoise (Podocnemis expansa), which lives in the Orinoco basin, as well as in the Amazon and Essequibo rivers.

Birds, reptiles and fish are the species most often mentioned by experts when discussing the rich biodiversity along the Orinoco belt.

The belt is a reservoir for the great diversity of Venezuelan species, but also for an international diversity for which we are responsible.

“A key asset is the migratory fish that transit from the Orinoco delta to the Andes. Over 65% of the Orinoco basin is in Venezuela and this area is still conserved. The rivers in the region and the fish that are there testify to the state of health of the basin,” said Douglas Rodríguez Olarte, conservation biologist and professor of ecology at the Universidad Centrooccidental Lisandro Alvarado, in the city of Barquisimeto.

Mammals that live in the area include the Orinoco dolphin (Inia geoffrensis humboldtiana) – the largest river dolphin in the world – and the manatee (Trichechus manatus), which is now classified as an endangered species in Venezuela due to the drying up of wetlands and the deforestation of mangrove forests.

“The Orinoco floodplains, which are in the lower part of the oil belt, can be considered the most interesting areas for biological diversity. This is where you have the best ecological condition, and also where there is the least human impact,” explained geographer Carlos González Rojas, coordinator of Orinoco Sostenible, an organization that promotes biodiversity conservation. In the region. “As it is flooded for almost six months of the year, humans have little opportunity to plant or establish themselves there.”

The Venezuelan Challenge

Orinoco Sostenible was founded in 2013 as part of a research project to map biodiversity around the Orinoco basin, jointly sponsored by the United Nations Development Program and the American environmental foundation The Nature Conservancy. Funding for the organization also later came from the French oil company Total Energies to carry out environmental impact studies for its oil exploration in Venezuela.

723,000

the number of barrels of oil produced per day in Venezuela in August 2022, according to OPEC sources

Most of these backers abandoned their projects amid the economic crisis in Venezuela that led to seven years of recession between 2014 and 2020. The Orinoco Sostenible project ended up solely under the aegis of the Systems Laboratory geographic information and environmental modeling from Simón Bolívar University in Caracas.

His goal, however, remained the same. Their challenge is to devise a plan that allows Venezuela to take advantage of the large volume of oil reserves in the Orinoco belt, without having to sacrifice the region’s rich biodiversity.

“The proposal involves the conservation of all forests in the Orinoco belt, which would guarantee production of up to 1,029,765 barrels of oil per day with net zero emissions,” says González Rojas, who is currently working on a thesis on environmental compensation for biodiversity by the oil industry. “If Venezuelan oil manages to have this green seal, then it will have added value, and that is important.”

According to González Rojas, this “net zero” would be achieved through the sequestration of carbon by the conserved forests of the Orinoco belt – although this is probably a disputed claim, since only emissions on the side of extraction and production are taken into account; once heavy hydrocarbon oil is flared, whether in Venezuela or abroad, significant emissions are likely to occur, at a level that cannot easily be offset.

Another of the suggestions put forward by Orinoco Sustenible is the creation of an international conservation fund, to which the state-owned company PDVSA and any foreign oil companies active along the Orinoco belt would contribute. The proposal is that this money would be used to strengthen conservation plans for endangered species such as the Orinoco crocodile.

For other environmental researchers in the Orinoco basin, the issue is much more complex than simply raising funds for species conservation.

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“In Venezuela, it is not mandatory to publish environmental impact studies as is the case in Colombia. The biological heritage of Venezuela is extremely important and must be properly managed; there can be no more opacity,” warned Professor Rodríguez Olarte. “There are several areas in Anzoátegui State where oil spills have already occurred and where oil has seeped into the morichales.” The teacher points out that the morichales – wetland habitats named after the moriche palms that inhabit them – are “extremely delicate ecosystems”.

Against the backdrop of growing global recognition of the climate crisis and the value of biodiversity, it’s worth asking how many oil companies are likely to be interested in partnering with the opaque PDVSA – a company that doesn’t has published no official report on its financial statements, nor on its environmental impact since 2016. Since the economic crisis drove the world’s oil majors away from Venezuela, the conditions for investing in fossil fuels have changed considerably.

Despite President Maduro’s repeated pleas, major foreign investment is yet to arrive in the Orinoco Belt, hampered by political stalemates and ongoing US sanctions, with deposit production stuttering. At a time of growing calls for energy transition, scrutiny and ever-increasing demands for transparency from oil companies, Venezuela’s dream of tapping 3 million barrels per day from the Orinoco Belt could remain a chimera.

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Orinoco belt: Venezuela awaits oil investments in a region rich in biodiversity – Diálogo Chino – OLTNEWS

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