In a normal country, this story would be making headlines all over the place. In Venezuela, this week…not so much.
Venezuela has quietly seized control of two oil rigs owned by a unit of Houston-based Superior Energy Services after the company shut them down because the state oil monopoly was months behind on payments.
The seizure took place Thursday after a judge in the state of Anzoategui, accompanied by four members of the local police and national guard, entered a Superior depot and ordered it to hand over control of two specialized rigs to an affiliate of PDVSA, the state-owned oil producer.
PDVSA justified the equipment’s expropriation, calling it essential to the South American nation’s development and welfare, according to a court order obtained by The Associated Press. Company workers were instructed to load the rigs, known as snubbing units and used to repair damaged casing, onto trucks to be deployed at “critical wells” elsewhere, according to the document.
“It was like a thief breaking into your house, asking for the keys to the safe and then expecting you to help carry it away,” Jesus Centeno, local operations manager for Superior in the city of Anaco, said by phone. “Their argument was that we were practically sabotaging national production.”
Listen, I’m sure Superior is insured up the wazoo for this kind of risk, so it’s no skin off their back. For the most part, all that episodes like this do is jack up the cost of insuring future projects in Venezuela, a cost you can just go right ahead and subtract from the Venezuelan government’s take.
At the same time, though, they further cement PDVSA’s increasingly dismal reputation as a fundamentally unserious partner. And then we wonder why the Malaysians (and others) are scrambling for the exits. And then we wonder why Rafael Ramírez’s production expansion targets never seem to pan out.
Oh and, pillen la perla al final:
Centeno said Superior stopped servicing PDVSA in July after negotiations broke down over millions of dollars in unpaid bills stretching back to December. Removal of the equipment will take a few days, so Superior is also feeding and sheltering the police officers and PDVSA crew on site, he said.
Verga, no querrán un Toddy tambien?
[Hat tip: Dago]
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