Curaçao is a Caribbean island, it is located about 65 km north of the Venezuelan coast in South America, it is an ex colony of the Kingdom of the Netherlands until it became independent (within the Kingdom) in 2010. The island is worldwide recognized for been one of the main hotspots for tourism (beautiful landscapes, beaches and other tourism amenities). However, and according with Pulster (2015) the island rank in the top 10 environmental polluted sites due to the emissions of the hundred years old oil-refinery: the Isla.
In the early 20th century, oil was discovered off the coast of Venezuela. And Curaçao was the perfect location for Royal Dutch Shell (Dutch company) to capitalize on the “new black gold”. In 1915, Shell established the “Isla” refinery. From 1915 to 1985, the Dutch company Shell ran the refinery. For decades, the company was the largest employer. The number of jobs at the refinery topped 10,000 during 1950s and 1960s. In 1985, for the symbolic sum of a single guilder, the Dutch multinational transferred ownership to the island’s government. Local people affirm that Shell decided to sell the project as they perceived that in the future they will have to face complains for local health and environmental damages related to the refinery.
Dwellers affirm that up to now, the refinery is an “ecological nightmare”. It’s been cranking out poison for decades. As an example of this, there is the “Asphalt Lake” (52 ha hardly polluted): “During World War II, the Shell refinery on Curacao produced a substantial quantity of fuel for the Allied forces. At that time the market demand for light oil products was higher than for heavy oil products, causing an overproduction of asphalt. Since the asphalt was of no use at the moment, it was pumped close to the refinery. This spot was later called “asphalt lake”. It is estimated that 1.5 million ton was dumped in the lake during the war” in sum a chemical waste lake at the same location of the asphalt lake, is another heritage from Shell. Useless- residues, in particular those of lubricating oil refining processes, were dumped. Asphalt is also found at this lake because since 1942 Shell also used it as a dump for asphalt.
Currently, the plant is owned by the government of Curacao but it is run by Petróleos de Venezuela, S.A. (PDVSA). While Shell left a legacy of a colossal poisonous artificial lake of asphalt, the residue of the production of benzene and aircraft fuel, PDVSA has since been responsible for thirty million kilos of CO2, a by-product of the process, which has been discharged into the air breathed by 20,000 local residents. The results have been serious damage to these people's’ health. Currently, Shell’s position is that it has no longer any obligation to help, while PVDSA shows little concern for environmental norms. SMOC and activist group suit the company for air pollution and health damages associated to air pollution. Due to this, the government had to start measuring levels of hazardous substances such as sulphur dioxide, however there is no punishment if they exceed the norms. In 2007 the name of the refinery was changed into Refineria Isla Curaçao B.V. The refinery is currently in operation, the lease runs out in 2019. In 2016 and due to the Venezuelan and PDVA crisis, the government of Curacao has signed a preliminary agreement with China’s Guangdong Zhenrong Energy to operate the Isla refinery and invest some $10 billion in upgrading the facility