Just a couple of weeks after Peru’s state-held oil company Petroperu had said it would restart next year a 40-year-old pipeline that leaked oil into the Amazon several times this year, more oil spilled in the jungle, prompting the local environmental regulator to renew its scrutiny over the company.
On Saturday, Petroperu said in a statement that a third-party attack against its Northern Peruvian Pipeline caused a spill, adding that it had launched a contingency plan to contain it. The company is in constant coordination with the authorities, regulatory and supervising bodies, it said, and attributed the spill to vandals.
Peru’s environmental regulator, OEFA, also issued a statement on Saturday, saying that it is launching an investigation into the oil spill and will be monitoring how Petroperu will implement its contingency plan.
Initially, the pipeline was shut down in February and was to remain so for a year, while Petroperu replaces the damaged parts that OEFA ordered it to replace.
Petroperu has blamed vandalism for the spills—over 7,000 barrels just this year—along the 687-mile pipeline that supplies crude to Peru’s state-owned oil refining and transportation company’s refinery on the Pacific coast. Vandalism was one reason for the spills, according to the environmental regulator. Another was poor maintenance, which sparked massive protests from communities living in the Amazon jungle, which the pipeline crosses on most of its course to the Pacific.
Shortly after the first few spills, an Amazon tribe kidnapped Petroperu workers and government officials over the way they had been handling the oil spills.
Even though Petroperu had said in February that the pipeline was shut down for repairs, it had been illegally transporting oil via the pipeline, Energy and Mines Minister Rosa Maria Ortiz said in June of this year. Back then, the government dismissed the then head of the company German Velasquez and fined Petroperu US$3.5 million.