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Gustavo Coronel : Challenging
Oliver Campbell on Venezuela's oil reserves




Oliver cannot get agitated.

My excellent friend Oliver Campbell has just published a note in PW (Are Venezuela's Oil Reserves Overstated--Does it Matter? ),  in which he minimizes the importance of Venezuelan official statements about oil reserves. He says he cannot get agitated about those figures since the average Venezuelan is not really interested about these technicalities. Oliver adds that he does not know how other countries have calculated their oil reserves. He mentions that Shell was fined $120 million for doing this but no country has been fined. He goes on to suggest that these calculations only take into account current conditions and that oil reserves will vary in time. In his way of thinking it is possible that eventually the recovery factor in the Orinoco region will increase, some day, to 20 percent. So, why so much excitement? He asks.

I am very disappointed about Oliver's excessively pragmatic reasoning. His conclusion is that Venezuelans are happy to believe that the country has the largest oil reserves in the world and that his only concern should be the rate at which this oil is produced. He even applauds what he calls Venezuela's PR strategy. He sees “nothing wrong with it”.

Since I am one of the geologists “excited” about the fraud going on I cannot let Oliver's opinions go unchallenged. A fraud is a fraud, even if it is not seen as such by the man in the street. The duty of the better informed is to pass on this information to the public. If an accountant in a bank knew the manager was stealing but kept quiet about it, because the amount would not be significant enough to harm the clients he, she would not be doing a proper job. It would be even more reprehensible of him, her to admire the move as “a good personal strategy” or, as in this case, a sound PR move.

What Venezuelans should find unacceptable about this case of the overstated reserves is not only that is being done in violation of technical and economic rules which exist today, even if they could be changed tomorrow. It is, essentially, the ethical violation, the perverted strategy behind the action. And this should merit the repudiation of all oil people, la gente del petróleo, as well as of all Venezuelan citizens who understand what is being done. It is the lie, the fraud, that we should reject, rather than dismissing it because “it does not make much difference”. I think it makes the hell of a difference. I think there is good reason to get agitated.



Gustavo Coronel is a 28 years oil industry veteran, a member of the first board of directors (1975-1979) of Petroleos de Venezuela (PDVSA), author of several books. At the present Coronel is Petroleumworld associate editor and advisor on the opinion and editorial content of the site. All his articles can be read in Gustavo's blog. Las Armas de Coronel . Petroleumworld does not necessarily share these views.

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Petroleumworld News 01/25/2011


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