Gustavo Coronel, who has the
unfair advantage added bonus of actually knowing what he’s talking about, weighs in on the Orimulsión debate:
The Orinoco region contains different grades of hydrocarbons, from medium gravity oils (14-16 degrees API) to heavy oils (12-14) to extra- heavy oils (10-12) to bitumens (heavier than water, gooey).
The whole discussion of oil vs. bitumen is moot, since the Faja has both. Actually, bitumens make up a significant portion of the total resources in the area, 30 percent?? (my rough estimate, no one yet knows how much.)
Therefore, there is room for utilizing these heavier types for Orimulsion, a competitor for coal with better calorific (heat) content and less environmental impact. We must remember that there are enormous resources of hydrocarbons there. At the current rate of production, it would take some 250 years to extract it all.
The question then becomes: will there exist a different array of energy sources by then? More solar, more wind, even hydrogen, the ultimate clean source? I think so. Solar airplanes have already flown. Therefore, we might be left with a lot of gooey stuff below the ground. We’d have to sell it as an aphrodisiac (better find good salesmen).
The rationale for Orimulsion is that using a portion of the total resources to manufacture it will not make a large dent in the enormous resource base of the area and would represents a low cost source of income for the country.
Gustavo then puts it in terms Venezuelans can really understand,
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Johnny Walker has a Red Label, a Black Label, a Blue Label and a Gold Label. Orimulsion would be the Orinoco’s Red Label. In the old days Johnny Walker would not sell Black Label unless the client also bought Red Label but I would not recommend this strategy for us.
In summary, I would not dismiss Orimulsion as a “grubby waste of national resources”. As you well say, upgrading plants are damn expensive and the fact remains that PDVSA has been for the last 6 years deshojando esa margarita. It is not upgrading vs. Orimulsion but, rather, upgrading and Orimulsion.