Anzoátegui's Black Dunes

CoqueI once called it “Anzoátegui’s unnatural wonder”: A large accumulation of petroleum coke, which is located outside PDVSA’s José Antonio Anzoátegui Petrochemical Complex (better known to the locals as Jose Refinery).

The coke mountain started way back in 2009 after a fire caused heavy damage to the docks used to transport the materials to export ships.

Six years later the coke mountain is still getting piled higher and higher.

A recent special report by newssite El Estimulo’s economy section (El Interés) tackles some questions like why the mountain remains there to this day and how much its very presence is costing us, both financially and environmentally.

After the 2009 fire, the dock’s transport line was never repaired; in exchange, trucks for heavy cargo were hired to move the coke remains from crude upgraders to outside patios… In recent years, several companies have received direct emergency allocations to move the coke inside the (Jose) complex.

The contractors have decided to pile up tons of coke in open terrain. Construction companies Urbano Fermín Compañía Anónima (Cuferca) and T&C Services are the two largest involved. The cost of hiring them has generated large expenses to the State and have received large amounts of money.”

That sort-of answers the first question. As for the second, the article mentions that local MP Carlos Michelangeli (MUD) calculated in October’14 that the country was losing 1,4 billion dollars for leaving the coke out on the open. Some of Jose’s workers are quite unhappy as well and denounced the existence of what they call “mafia del coque”. The National Assembly’s Oil Commision has opened an investigation (by Michelangeli’s request), but so far… nada.

With no solution in sight, perhaps the central government should try presenting it as a tourist attraction (a worker coined the term “medanos de coque” or coke dunes, in reference to its natural Coro counterpart). But there’s a couple of problems: The State doesn’t like folks taking pictures there and their tourism strategy is focused in something else.