The ONP began operating on May 24, 1977. It is about to complete 44 years of operation and it is almost worth one billion (968,859 million) barrels transported. It is appropriate to remember that the ONP was built to transport the crude obtained from Block 8, but with the discovery of Block 1AB -which is currently called Block 192-, the transportation business was rethought: Section 1 has transported 30%, while than the ORN (which began operating in 1978), 70%. The ORN, the additional pipeline, represents more than two-thirds of the total transported. In these 43 years of operation, most of the crude has been destined for national consumption (more than 680’000,000 barrels) and only 280’000,000 for other countries. The latter, in reality, does not reflect what is currently happening. Before, as crude oil was light, it was destined for the Talara, Pampilla and Conchán refineries. Today most of the crude transported is for export.
The difference between the ORN and Section 1 is minimal. Both have the same technology and infrastructure. Between one and the other, in terms of starting operations, there is a difference of little more than a year.
At some point, stations 2, 3 and 4, between 1 and 5, were projected in Section 1. Likewise, two more stations were planned after 9, to lower pressure. In the 1970s it was foreseen to pump 100,000 barrels and even reach 200,000, since the tube allows such a flow, while the pumps could yield up to 150,000. But this scenario never occurred, since the volume instead of increasing, was reduced in Section 1.
As 10,000 barrels are currently being pumped from the Andoas Station, it is not necessary to use the Morona Station. If 20,000 barrels were to be transported from Andoas Station, then it would be necessary to re-pump from Morona Station. In fact, it follows the calculation of very precise sequences to optimize the ONP infrastructure.
There are three main systems to move crude through the ONP: Section 1, ORN and Section 2. In the case of Section I, the turbopumps have been changed to motorpumps, which are more efficient for heavy crude oils. In Section II, from Station 5 to Bayóvar, they are very large teams, since the volume is greater. In the Modernization Project, it is planned to change the turbines of Station 5, 6, 7, 8 and 9 with electric pumps. Over the years, many areas along the Pipeline have been urbanizing and already have electricity. Going from electric generators to an electric interconnected system considerably lowers the cost of pumping. But not everything comes down to cost but also to performance: an electric pump has an efficiency between 85 and 95%, while a turbine has an 18% efficiency. The only drawback is the reliability of the electrical network. The consumption of electrical energy is still low, so there is a network with transformers that could not satisfy the demand of the electric pumps.
Social risks have come to the fore. These are basically criminal acts, such as cuts in the pipe, which are produced with a saw and grinder. Small cuts have also been found in the coating and electrical batteries next to the tube, with the purpose of generating corrosion and affecting it internally, in order to cause a spill that seems lack of maintenance. In addition, there are the connections to steal (which normally take place in the desert area, near Piura), from a picket, the placement of a manifold valve and a hose, in order to process this crude in a clandestine refinery. Additionally, there is the intake of the stations which interrupts the pumping operation, as well as the delay for the execution of maintenance works along the pipeline.
Between Stations 5 and 7 there is a lot of ground instability, that is, landslide and settlement of earth, and displacement of rocks, apart from hydraulic action. The ONP crosses rivers 49 times. In fact, it crosses the Marañón on three occasions. This generates a lot of risk and, therefore, requires greater control and maintenance, to resolve both pits and pinholes as well as more serious contingencies.
Spills in many cases generate a pressure drop, which is detected by the SCADA system and alerts the Operators, thereby activating the stoppage of the pumping operation and patrolling the estimated area. Additionally, small spills are detected in frequent patrols carried out on the right of way.
This depends on many factors. On more than one occasion, the Company’s workers have been prevented from entering the contingency zone. On one occasion, access took three months. It is not only the cost of stopping and the loss of oil, but also what the collection of the spilled material and remediation implies. In this case, if it had been entered the next day, that contingency would have been only 20% of what it ended up being. The repair was quick, but the remediation took a year and a half. The community considered that the longer the oil was impounded, the longer the remediation would take, which would mean more work for its members. That is why he made all kinds of excuses during the negotiation.
A repair is usually very quick, usually one day. If the tube is two, three or more meters underground, getting to the point and repairing it can take up to five days. In fact, what takes the longest is remediation (between a month and a year).
The dispersion of hydrocarbons both horizontally and vertically is linked to several factors, for example, the type of product that is spilled, the viscosity or specific gravity, the texture of the soil, the porosity and the hydraulic gradient, among others. Oil is going to behave differently if it falls on sandy or clay soil. The clay has a fine grain and serves as a natural plug, preventing the oil from sinking, since the surface parts are saturated and a kind of shield is formed. This keeps the oil in storage. When you have a more viscous and heavier product such as oil that is transported by the ONP, the situation changes. This type of crude, even falling on a sandy ground, will hardly infiltrate as much as gasoline, a lighter fuel. This means that in the event of a spill, you have more time to act, even more so if you take into account that the terrain of the jungle is usually clayey.
Among the techniques that can be developed for remediation are physicochemical treatments (such as the excavation of contaminated soil, extraction of air from the soil, pumping and treatment of groundwater, soil rinsing and in-situ chemical treatments); biological (such as in-situ biodegradation, phytoremediation, landfarming, ex-situ, on-site and off-site treatments in biopiles and composting) and thermal (such as incineration and thermal desorption), among others.
There are many ways to remedy an area that has been impacted. It starts with an evaluation to determine which will be the most appropriate methodology, since there is no single recipe. If the spill has occurred near a road, it will definitely have more facilities to collect the soil and take it to another area. But if it has been produced in the middle of the jungle, transporting it is very complicated.
Verification of the effectiveness of the remediation is in charge of the Environmental Assessment and Enforcement Agency (OEFA). Prior to entering OEFA, a double verification is carried out. The remediator enters and performs post-remediation monitoring, for which a number of points is determined for sampling, which is a function of the area’s extension, established in the current guides and protocols, to monitor the soil and, above all, the Water.
Several of the areas where spills occurred are located in difficult-to-access Amazon jungle environments. This condition involves a series of logistical, technical and socio-environmental difficulties that often restrict the normal development of cleaning and remediation works.
Thus, for example, during the months of greatest rainfall in the Peruvian jungle, climatic conditions and the increase in the water level interfere in the normal development of cleaning and remediation activities, having to momentarily paralyze the works until the restoration of the favorable conditions that guarantee the effectiveness of the interventions.
At PETROPERÚ we have a staff of professionals and sufficient equipment for the timely attention of the different aspects, both routine and non-routine, that make up the environmental management of a typical hydrocarbon company. However, and even when internally these personnel have specific expertise in one or more of the different aspects that make up the broad spectrum of subjects and branches associated with environmental management (including environmental remediation), the aforementioned professionals are simultaneously in charge of various recurring and daily environmental management and administration tasks that together allow compliance with the increasingly complex environmental regulatory framework of the Hydrocarbons Subsector.
Within this framework, the hiring of companies specialized in environmental remediation, under the direct supervision of the hydrocarbon operator, is – from a technical perspective – a valid alternative to obtain the best results. Thanks to these, hydrocarbon companies are able to cover, both in quantity and qualification, the demanding requirements of experts and equipment necessary for the correct attention of spills, events that due to their nature and characteristics can exceed the capacity of a Company of face, by their own means, the response to the emergency, even more so if the various logistical, technical and socio-environmental difficulties involved in working in Amazonian ecosystems are considered. These conditions, in the particular case of PETROPERÚ, were aggravated by the frequency with which spills were recorded by acts of third parties between 2016 and 2020, a situation that required simultaneous work on several fronts.
It should be noted that this practice is not exclusive to PETROPERÚ. In fact, it is characteristic of any hydrocarbon company, from majors to regional or local companies, both public and private. In almost all cases, the aforementioned companies seek to cover these non-recurring or daily needs by hiring the skills and experiences of a company whose main business revolves around the specialized activity to be carried out. These companies make available to oil companies updated, expert experiences, of practical application in the field with real and effective solution of problems and without significant increase in workload for them, conditions that the mere direct hiring of professionals does not necessarily guarantee.
Upon detection of a possible spill, the Company’s Contingency Plan is immediately activated, which establishes the procedures and guidelines to handle this type of situation with an operational and administrative approach. These are standard in nature and apply in any scenario. Additionally, specific response plans are formulated, according to the main characteristics of the environmental event and the conditions of the environment in which it occurred.
The response phases to a spill contingency are:
The containment channel of Section I of the ONP is an artificial facility built by PETROPERÚ to house the Pipeline and that functions as a containment barrier to confine the crude in the event of a spill. It also has safety caps that prevent the exit to other bodies of water. It was built on marshy terrain and has a total length of 275 kilometers, which represents 90% of the length of Section I (306 kilometers).
In this regard, in the contingencies presented, this channel has shown that it does fulfill its containment function, since it has prevented the spill from reaching important bodies of water. This corroborates its effectiveness and makes its replacement unnecessary. Likewise, it works as an additional mechanism to mitigate the risks of hydrocarbon transportation management.
In relation to the operational improvements to be implemented, work is being done to reduce the risk of breakage due to loss of thickness in the duct, since it has been fully inspected with intelligent scrapers, the sectors that presented significant anomalies have been reinforced, and Other sectors with the presence of less important anomalies continue to be reinforced, according to the preventive maintenance plan.
Similarly, it collaborates with the Public Ministry to identify and punish those responsible for the intentional cuts that affected the ONP between 2016 and 2018.
The laying of the ONP pipeline was carried out in accordance with the international standards in force at the time of its construction, taking into account the geography and topography of the site. In other words, in certain areas, due to specific geographical conditions, the pipeline was required not to be underground but within a flotation channel that would allow it to contain the hydrocarbon in the event of a break or breakdown.
The flotation channel was designed and built for the laying of approximately 275 kilometers of pipe out of a total of 306 kilometers of Section I of the ONP. Its construction followed the best international practices available, taking into account the complex geography and topography of the environments it crosses.
The design criteria of the flotation channel was conceived with the purpose of isolating the laying bed of the ONP from the swampy areas and the sensitive river hydraulic network of the Peruvian Amazon. In the absence of this artificial channel, the escaped hydrocarbon would spread more easily, and could reach streams and rivers. In this sense, the artificial flotation channel is part of the structure of Section I and of the containment system for environmental emergencies, such as oil spills.
It is important to mention that there is currently no national or international regulation that prohibits the use of a flotation channel for the placement of pipes and as a containment system for spills.
The North Peruvian Pipeline is located in the coastal mountains and jungle regions and each one has particular characteristics. In this sense, when an oil spill event occurs, the corresponding studies are carried out for each scenario, in which various factors are considered to determine the costs and risk for each operation. These include the time the hydrocarbons remain in contact with the ground before being contained and recovered; an analysis of the type of soil affected; the presence or absence of bodies of water; the type of oil spilled; the availability of resources and logistical conditions to and from the work points; the quality, quantity and availability of necessary operational personnel; and the operational tasks necessary to develop the processes of evacuation, temporary storage, transport and final disposal of waste, among others.
In the case of the spills that occurred in the Peruvian jungle, it is evident that the degree of accessibility and the lack of logistical means to easily access the impacted areas directly results in greater difficulties in developing the works and, consequently, in higher costs of operation.
Together with the characteristics of limited logistical access, the properties of environmental sensitivity of the affected areas, and the local environmental regulation regarding environmental quality standards for water and soil, they make a significant difference with other scenarios, countries and remediation operations.
Additionally, in environments such as those analyzed, with the presence of forests, lagoons, swamps and marshes, cleaning tasks must be carried out with the greatest care. For this reason, it is a common practice in the industry to have large contingents of workforce that allow these selective clearing and cleaning processes to be carried out, always seeking to achieve the environmental quality levels established by the Peruvian environmental authority.
For each of the spills that occur, from PETROPERÚ we develop an ad hoc evaluation process, which includes both the physical-chemical and biological characterization of the areas of influence of the events as well as the socioeconomic characterization of the local communities and their areas of use of natural resources, in order to identify and evaluate the potential impacts to the relevant components of the environment.
It should be noted that these evaluations include a systematic process of environmental monitoring focused on the follow-up and evolution of the rehabilitation of soils, surface waters and aquatic sediments, as well as the flora and fauna of the remediated areas, even after the cleaning activities have been completed. and remediation.
The conclusions of the monitoring process will serve to define whether it is necessary to apply rehabilitation actions, based on the progress of the observed environmental recovery.
The different evaluations carried out to date show that the impacts caused by spills in the ONP present characteristics of temporary duration (time the effect remains until it disappears by action of natural means or through corrective actions), as well as reversibility (possibility that the affected factor has, to return to its initial natural state by natural means, once the action stops acting on the environment) and recoverability (possibility that the factor returns to the previous conditions applying corrective or remediation measures) of short to medium term.
As part of the environmental and social assessment of the areas affected by the contingencies, the migration routes of oil or its components to the environment and the human body have been identified. Likewise, environmental monitoring processes have been carried out focused on the follow-up and evolution of the rehabilitation of soils, surface waters and aquatic sediments, as well as the flora and fauna of the remediated areas.
It should be noted that the regulations and quality standards both internationally and those legally in force in Peru for different media (soil, water, air, etc.) and different uses recognize that there may be a certain residual impact (concentrations) of anthropogenic compounds (such as hydrocarbons from petroleum) that do not pose a risk to recipients, whether ecological or human.
In this regard, consult numeral 31.1 of article 31 of Law 28611 (General Environmental Law) that defines the environmental quality standard (ECA) as the measure that establishes the concentration level or degree of elements, substances or physical parameters, chemical and biological, present in the air, water or soil, in its condition of receiving body, which does not represent a significant risk to human health or the environment.
The results of the environmental monitoring processes obtained to date guarantee the effectiveness of the remediation work carried out in the contingencies that occurred in the ONP.
In this sense, it can be concluded that, at present, there are no migration routes or routes for potential pollutants to sensitive human-type receptors. This is due, among others, to the fact that, in most cases, the spills were contained and confined in the cleaning areas. In addition, the emergency declarations that began in several of the events helped limit any use of resources in the affected areas during the remediation process, thus restricting exposure to human receptors.
For these reasons, it is not possible to verify the relationship between the presence of total petroleum hydrocarbons in the soil component and the effect on the health of the inhabitants.
It should be noted, however, that PETROPERÚ has launched a systematic process of environmental monitoring focused on the follow-up and evolution of the rehabilitation of soils, surface waters and aquatic sediments, as well as the flora and fauna of the remediated areas. The conclusions of the monitoring process will serve to define whether it is necessary to apply rehabilitation actions, based on the progress of the observed environmental recovery.
The National Fisheries Health Agency (Sanipes), through official reports referring to some contingencies that occurred in the ONP, has concluded that there is no relationship between oil spills and the abnormal concentration of heavy metals found in the tissue of fish sampled in areas surrounding some of the sectors where spills occurred. Furthermore, the crude oil spilled does not contain the heavy metals found in fish in its composition.
In the same way, the samples of the fish tissue carried out by both the environmental authority and PETROPERÚ in the areas affected by the oil spills show that these do not have an impact by hydrocarbons, even in those areas with cleaning work still in process .
The main components of the contamination of the waters of the Amazonian ecosystems do not have their origin in the hydrocarbon industry or in its eventual contingencies, but in economic and rural-domestic activities of different natures, which have been developed for a long time in different places of the forests of Peru. However, PETROPERÚ maintains a continuous monitoring program in the areas where spills occurred, in order to monitor the evolution and recovery of the environments that were intervened.
When an emergency (contingency) starts, a monitoring of the main environmental components involved, that is, water, soils, sediments, hydrobiological resources, flora, etc., is programmed -among other activities, both at the beginning and in its intermediate phase and at the end of the remediation.
These monitoring begin in the so-called areas of potential interest, related to the areas of influence of the contingency. Thus, part of them are carried out in the area where the oil flowed, following its trajectory. If the river is in the path of the spill, the pertinent monitoring is also carried out, in order to verify that the traces of hydrocarbons that may have arrived are in a concentration within the limits established by Peruvian regulations (environmental quality standard for water).
In the event of a spill, it is the function of the Ministry of Health (Minsa) to define whether the sources of water for human consumption have been affected or not. In all cases of ONP contingencies between 2014 and 2020, it has not been determined that the sources of water for human consumption have been impacted. Likewise, the National Fisheries Health Service (Sanipes) has carried out the respective analyzes and has concluded that there is no relationship between the presence of certain metals in the fish of the Peruvian Amazon and the recent spills.
In any case, in a preventive way, from PETROPERÚ we carry out medical campaigns in the localities near the contingencies, in coordination with the Ministry of Health, in order to verify the health status of the inhabitants, and rule out that there could be cases of damage to the health from exposure to hydrocarbons. The results of these numerous health care services reveal that the ailments detected at the contingency sites are generally due to endemic intestinal and respiratory diseases, unrelated to oil exploitation activities or spills.