Tarnish on the Golden Rock: Will the Tiny Caribbean Isle of St. Eustatius Surrender to Oil Multinationals?

St. Eustatius Looking south toward the Quill from abreast the terminal Credit: Betsy Crowfoot

St. Eustatius looking south toward the Quill from abreast the terminal Credit: Betsy Crowfoot

Part I of a multi-part series originally published on Ecology.com.

St. Eustatius (“Statia”) is a charming, diminutive tropical island lapped by the Atlantic on the east and the Caribbean on the west; equidistant between North and South America – a central location which provided Statia its early prominence as an 18th century hub for shipping and trade.

So prosperous was this lush, mountainous island, it was called The Golden Rock. But its central location also cursed this Eden.

The Caribbean basin is one of the world’s major oil producing regions, with Venezuela boasting the western hemisphere’s largest reserves (and refineries), in addition to other producers like Mexico, Columbia, and the Gulf Coast of the US.

While most of the oil produced here is shipped regionally – and predominantly to the US – there’s a deficit of deep water ports there, making Caribbean refining and transfer points critical.

And at the axis of these shipping routes, is Statia.

The Golden Rock

Although 4,927 miles (7,927km) from Amsterdam, Statia is a municipality of the Netherlands. Roughly five miles long and two miles wide, the island is inhabited by approximately 3,000 residents – mostly clustered in the middle third of the island on a verdant bluff bookended by mountains on one end and a slumbering volcano – the Quill – on the other.

But more dominant than even the 2,000-foot (609m) Quill, is an expanse of oil drums blotting the northwest quadrant of the island.

Opened in 1982, and acquired by NuStar Energy L.P. (NuStar) in 2005, the oil terminal contains 67 storage tanks with a capacity of more than 13-million barrels. Another $50 million, five tank expansion is currently underway and slated for completion by the end of 2012. At that time capacity for distillate fuels will increase one million barrels, and generate another $5-10 million annually.

And NuStar wants more.

Continue reading here.

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