Environmental reflections on Petroperu’s latest oil spills

by | Mar 3, 2016 | Articles | 0 comments

In these last thirty days, Petroperu has suffered two incidents Environmental Reflections of oil spills, the first occurred on January 25 in the Chiriaco River, located in the district of Imaza in Bagua (Amazonas), with a crude oil spill of approximately 2,000 barrels; and the second on February 3 in the progressive 203 + 13 of the Pipeline, in Quebrada Cashacano, Mayruhiaga River (Loreto), with a spill of approximately 1000 barrels of crude oil.

Initially, there was talk of an act of vandalism to cut the pipeline and later they indicated that as a result of a natural phenomenon, especially the inclement weather that caused heavy rains, there was a landslide that displaced the pipeline and as a result caused a crack in the pipeline. Regarding the second incident, they point to nature as the cause, since a lightning strike on the pipeline caused a cut through which the crude leaked.
It is worth noting that for the Energy and Mining Investment Supervisory Agency (OSINERGMIN), the probable cause has been the failure to maintain the pipeline, i.e. Petroperu has not complied with its Environmental Adjustment and Management Plan, which supposedly shows that there has been no comprehensive maintenance of the infrastructure. The Environmental Evaluation and Oversight Agency (OEFA) has its hands tied due to Law No. 30230, as it has only issued corrective measures and an administrative investigation. The National Water Authority (ANA) has not yet issued a report. It should be noted that these three environmental oversight agencies must issue their technical reports to determine the causes and establish who is allegedly responsible for the case.

As a result of these incidents, the competent fiscal authorities, in the first case the Specialized Environmental Prosecutor’s Office of Bagua and in the second case the Specialized Environmental Prosecutor’s Office of Loreto-Maynas, have opened preliminary investigations against the legal representative of Petroperu for the crime of Environmental Contamination, typified in art. 304 of the Penal Code, having carried out the fiscal findings in the place of the facts, verifying the respective samples taken by the environmental authorities and subscribing the corresponding Fiscal Acts, while awaiting the Technical Reports based on art. 149 of the General Law of the Environment and citing for the statements of the legal representative of the company and other relevant proceedings for the clarification of the facts under investigation.

Likewise, it was said that a clamp has been placed at the point of the crack to contain the leak, being this the correct procedure in these cases, reason why the protocol verified before the media should not be minimized.

What should PetroPerú do?

The company must immediately activate its contingency plan and send the respective crews to the scene to make an assessment, place the clamp on the crack and proceed to the containment barriers to begin cleaning the area for subsequent remediation. In this case, according to journalistic information, children were used to collect the crude oil, however this is illegal. While it is true that when these incidents occur the companies send specialized crews to deal with these contingencies, they also hire adult residents of the area to carry out cleanup work such as collecting weeds and weeding where the crude oil has passed, in accordance with the community relations agreements and the social responsibility plan that all companies have.

Thirdly, it was also commented that the containment barriers were exceeded by nature, due to the heavy rains. And they also mentioned that the crude confinement areas were not adequate, which if true, we can say that there has not been a good management of the contingency plan, since in the jungle areas it rains constantly and in the case of the first incident, good containment barriers should have been installed throughout the area of the incident, applying a biodegradable product called “oclansorb”, to later apply a good waste management, perform the removal, and finally make the comprehensive remediation of the area.


1.- Every company should have a prevention system for environmental incidents, according to its Environmental Adaptation and Management Plan, which obviously for these cases, preventive maintenance should be carried out through monitoring.

2.- The contingency plan must act immediately, sending to the area crews of operators trained for these types of incidents.

3.- Regarding the application of the environmental criminal law for these types of environmental incidents, a preliminary investigation was opened for the crime of environmental contamination (art. 304 of the C.P.) but we must have in mind that the company is not subject to criminal sanction, but the officials are. After carrying out the preliminary investigation before the prosecutor, the representative of the Public Prosecutor’s Office may file the complaint and not continue with the preparatory investigation, or on the contrary, formalize it for the commission of the crime of environmental pollution against the officials, who by that procedural stage will be fully identified and will continue with the preparatory stage before the Criminal Judge in order to follow the whole sequence of the criminal proceeding.

4.- Finally, I must specify on a personal basis, that in cases of environmental incidents, no matter how much prevention program the company has, no matter how much the respective Environmental Management and Adaptation Plan is applied, no one can assert that environmental incidents will never occur within the oil operation, either for various reasons.