Bati Bleki Weekly Recap, Jan 15th, 2017

The cold shoulder treatment

I have stayed away from the subject of the MinPres for a while, but must revisit him today to again express my disappointment with his juvenile conduct.

As you remember from previous articles, the process of nominating Aruba’s new Governor was painful.

The MinPres had a preferred candidate in mind, but the Dutch Crown decided independently to pick another; after all, he will be working here on their behalf, representing the king, the highest position in the land.

In accordance to the royal decree, our new Governor, Alfonso Boekhoudt, assumed the office responsibilities on January 1st, 2017, and presented himself to Parliament, this week.

Surprise. He was received with a cold shoulder. Just three of Aruba’s nine ministers were on hand – MinPres, MinTour, MinLabour; there were no niceties exchanged, no warm congratulations, no photo opportunities with our ruling AVP party. (The opposition party behaved well, in full support of the new official.)

And while the Governor called for union and reconciliation in his address in Parliament, his plea was ignore by our ruling party, and the entire Government stayed away from THE social event of the year, the Governor’s annual ball, this past weekend. Not a single minister showed up to what may be considered the Dutch King’s party.

What kind of message were they sending? What do they have to gain from such rude behavior?

I can only join my friends and say it’s shameless and shameful. Our new Governor is a family man, a church-goer, a father of nine, an educated individual who brings immense, positive, added-value to his job, and I understand that he is liked in government circles, but the fact that he accepted the King’s job offer without asking for permission, cost him dearly; he was shunned by the Government, AND the press office. The media apparently received instructions from the MinPres, to keep press coverage to a minimum.

Now what kind of behavior are you modeling to your people? That of a sore loser.

So you lost your candidate, which would have also been great, I agree, but the King of The Netherlands decided differently. So you’re having a public pissing contest with King Willem Alexander at the cost of dividing this country?

Now what kind of behavior are you modeling to you people? As I said, that of a sore loser.

You should be protecting our sacred democratic institutions instead of flushing them down the toilet in the name of false pride.

I now recall I saw you speaking at the opening of Zara, at the opening of Pandora Boutique, and the Adidas store, you never miss a PR Opportunity. So, what happened here?

I also did not see you at the re-opening of the historic Hilton Aruba Caribbean Resort & Casino. Why? Because you had to share the stage with other dignitaries, no single billing offered?!

And while we’re talking about your considerable shortcomings allow me to tell you that while we appreciate that you finally acknowledged your Jewish roots by lighting the menorah at the Hyatt Regency on December 28th during a ‘holiday concert, with an audience of 1,500 residents and tourists,’ (that writer must have an oriental imagination) we would have appreciated it more, if you did the same exact thing in the local synagogue, with the members of the local Jewish community, instead of on stage against the backdrop of a promotional bank banner, with an eclectic tourist audience. Your late mom and late aunt would have been proud if you visited ‘their’ synagogue, for the holidays.

Is the Refinery Deal, Real?

One of my friends recently asked me, “Is the refinery deal, real?” So, I asked around, and I am hereby sharing my interesting finds.

First question: What does refining mean. In oil refining industry lingo, it’s no hocus-pocus, it simply means boiling oil…

You know from your experience in the kitchen that if you heat water in a pot on the kitchen stove to its boiling point, it means the water temperature reached 100 degrees Celsius. Right? Then it turns to steam, and starts evaporating. You may also decide to boil that same water in a pressure-cooker, raising the temperature of the water before it turns to steam, and additionally if you boil water in a vacuum, or in a lower than atmospheric pressure, water boils at a lower temperature.

And that’s refining for you!

So all the refinery does is boils crude oil, several ways. For example in an Atmospheric Crude Unit, using simple technology, at 375 degree Celsius, the refinery may produce propane gas, butane gas, naphtha, diesel, and AGO, Atmospheric Gas Oil; what’s left over is residual oil, which requires further equipment to refine or now that we know, we can just say boil.

The heavier residual oil can then be transported through pipes to the refinery’s Vacuum Unit for further processing to produce among other things, VGO, vacuum gas oil and VTB, vacuum tower bottoms, literally the left over bottom products, which can also be used, and they all derived from simply boiling the black sticky gook.

Second Question: OK, so PDVSA has a great desire to boil oil in Aruba. Why? What’s in it for PDVSA, why would they want to get involved with us?

Aha, said my friend: CITGO Aruba Refinery has two “Cokers,” which can be used in upgrading heavy Venezuelan crude oil.

What does that mean, I asked? He answered.

Cokers operate on the principle of thermal cracking which converts large hydrocarbon chains into shorter chains. You take the heavy sludge, you stick it in the coker, you heat it up and miraculously it emerges as a lighter more valuable crude oil.

Then you further enhance your product by matching these two Cokers up with other technology, to include a crude unit and a vacuum unit.

Your challenges are not over yet, in order to prepare the naphtha and diesel flowing out of the Coker for the crude and vaccum units, you first must hydrotreat them to desulfurize them.



Bottom line: The heavy Venezuelan crude oil, is now heavily discounted on the market, let’s say $10 per barrel, from $53 to $43. So let’s say Venezuela now sells its heavy crude oil at $45 per barrel. Then you can easily see if CITGO Aruba manages to upgrade 200,000 barrels per day x $10 per barrel – less operating cost, then its net profit could be as much as $1 million per day or say over $300 million per year, and could therefore justify spending $600-700 million to refurbish the Aruba refinery.

Help me acquire my Dutch nationality so I can study in the Netherlands

A petition has been going around, it arrived on my FB page, later I noticed poet Natusha Croes and art curator Glen Goddijn were both helping circulate it. Natusha posted: Come on, come on, wave of petition signing, please, this person is super great, genius, I almost dare to say Luis deserves to transgress the small island mentality reigning.

Luis tells a touching story: Since I was 2 years old I’ve lived on Aruba. 20 years later and I still don’t have the Dutch nationality/Aruban citizenship. When we arrived, my family remained illegal for 7 years, until in 2003 I and my family received our first permits. But even with 13 years of legality on the island, the government doesn’t want to recognize my right to the Aruban citizenship. The government has done all that it can to sporadically hand out permits, leaving me with many gaps in my legal residence, which makes it impossible to meet the requirement of 5 years legal residence (with no gaps) to apply for the Dutch citizenship. Even now, when I have asked numerous people inside of the government for help, including the prime minister, Mike Eman, the minister of integration & infrastructure, Benny Zievinger, and the minister of education, Michelle Hooyboer-Winklaar, it seems like none of them are interested in my plight or are powerless to affect any kind of change in this situation for me.

Luis is not the only one, lost in the bureaucratic maze. One of my friends who has been living here for two decades, was denied nationality on the same basis, there are gaps in her paperwork thanks to the snail-paced, sloppy Modus Operandi of DOOV, Direktie Openbare Orden en Veiligheid,  and later the same entity with a different name DIMAS, Departamento di Integracion Manejo y Admision Straheros.

That department kept moving from Dakota to San Nicholas, to Tanki Flip and to Wilhelminastraat packing its paperwork into boxes each time, and letting the boxes fall off the truck every time they moved. They were notorious for misplacing and losing valuable documents, not to mention making their clients stand in line from sunrise to dusk, exposed to the elements, in order to get a number, so their case would be heard.

Then some swindlers set up shop as middlemen, and when they disappeared with the fees paid to them to help process permits, gaps were created in paper trail.

Then some pigeons set up shop under the office roof and the bureaucracy had to take a look break to clean up the poop, creating more bottle necks in the process.

I have many people in my inner circle who suffered from that negligent and indifferent attitude. WHY? Because the people at DOOV and later at DIMAS hated their jobs.

Yes, the people in charge of regulating immigration couldn’t stand their clients.

My former foster daughter, now in her thirties, just recently managed to obtain her Dutch nationality. She arrived here as a baby, spent her youth and young adulthood at Imeldahof and Cas pa Huventud, where she was cared for, but remained paperless, as no one volunteered to undertake that paperwork challenge. Consequently, no AZV for her, no AZV for her baby daughter. Recently, because she stuck-to-it, despite all bureaucracy, she received the burgundy passport, and is chasing the rest of the legalities, right as we speak. Happy ending. It took 27 years.

We have a new Governor, perhaps in his capacity, he can lobby for an amnesty so people like Luis and my GF who fell victim to an inefficient, lazy and flawed process, may be naturalized. Perhaps appoint a special tribunal within DIMAS, dedicated to the resolution of special cases. Read how easy it sounds on Wikipedia. In reality, in Aruba, it’s via dolorosa.    

Naturalization (or naturalization) is the legal act or process by which a non-citizen in a country may acquire citizenship or nationality of that country. It may be done by a statute, without any effort on the part of the individual, or it may involve an application and approval by legal authorities.


History doesn’t repeat itself – Fools repeat history, what RdA has to keep in mind

This article was written with the help of an project insider: At the time Valero bought the refinery from El Paso around 2003/2004, the refinery business was good and Valero easily recouped its hundreds of million dollar investment within several months.  However by 2007 the refinery economics changed and Valero began losing hundreds of millions of dollars. I understand that one must have deep pockets, full of money, to decide to boil oil for a living.

The initial investment of Coastal Corporation was estimated at $121million in 1990, that was thought to be enough to refurbish the refinery. In reality it took nearly $250 million in 1991 after management learned, through testing and inspection, that the condition of the refinery was much worse than expected.  Remember, Exxon-Lago shutdown in 1985, and Coastal began the refurbishment project 5 years later in 1990.

By comparison, Valero shutdown in 2012 and now 5 years later CITGO will embark upon a similar refurbishment project.  Although Valero has maintained the internal components of the refinery in better condition than Lago, over the last 5 years, the refinery has been idle all that time, and it is just speculation that this time the refurbishment will be different and less extensive in scope.

What was budgeted at $121millions, in 1990, ended up costing $250millions because Coastal Corporation was ill-advised by the hurried inspection performed, and consequently the company was ill-prepared.

If you recall, the company quickly jumped into the refinery refurbishment project, importing 1,000 plus Turkish TCNs, Third County Nationals. Coastal recruited the workforce from Foster Wheeler, General Contractors, and basically the TCNs were standing around twiddling their thumbs, while inspectors and engineers worked extensively this time, to determine the actual scope of work.

So they were rushed at first, and screwed up the scope of work, which determined the original cost estimate prepared somewhere in Houston, in an air-conditioned office.

The project was begun with an incomplete overview. And finally engineering needed additional work, additional materials, additional tools, and additional equipment, to support the actual work.  The project management was also totally unprepared to deal with to the TCN workforce, in the Aruban Labor Law environment resulting in several months of labor unrest and its associated impact on productivity. Remember??

“History doesn’t repeat itself – Fools repeat history,” CITGO Aruba must take its time to safely and properly inspect the refinery, develop the proper scope of work, understand Aruban Labor Law and prepare an accurate, realistic cost estimate for this project over the next several months.  This becomes a risk-based process, but using historical records from the refinery, and employing experienced risk-based inspection techniques, will eventually develop a good plan for a safe and reliable crude upgrading facility.  Fortunately, CITGO USA has been recognized over the years, within the American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers (AFPM), as being a leader in safe, reliable refinery project management, operations and maintenance.

My source says that Aruba can be proud of the fact that Refineria di Aruba N.V. (RdA), currently consists of a small, efficient, well-educated group of professionals, who enjoy a well-experienced partner in CITGO Aruba. They are both about to embark on the refurbishment project, but RdA must be vigilant to monitor the overall senior management, refinery economics, project management, and financing requirements to insure it leads with its best foot forward with properly educated community oversight so that the refinery continues to be a “win-win” project for all.

Aruba, in direct communication with the mother of god

It started around the Millennium, when a woman by the name of Valerie reported vivid visions of the Virgin. She said she saw the sky parting, a ray of light penetrating the clouds, the earth shaking, the universe shifting and finally she heard distinct loud voices.

Did you think mental illness? Yes of course. Not in Aruba. That unhinged, charismatic story-teller, with a fertile imagination started collecting a following. A great number of people visited her backyard in Modanza for long sessions of prayers and penitence. The Virgin would appear before midnight, and Valerie would communicate with her, live, which totally impressed a growing number of locals.

Then when her yard became too small to contain the devotees, Valerie searched high and low for an alternative, bigger location, where the instructions from above could be easily received.

As she reached the neighborhood of Koyari, she noticed a large former plantation with its own natural well. Right there and then she got a loud and clear message that this was the location of choice. So she set up shop on that terrain, accepting it as a gift from the pair of believers who live there.

In fast succession she then fundraised in the community for a super-size cross, a glamorous virgin, a biblical Christ, a cherubic divine baby, and finally a chapel with the Holy family inside and a number of angels all around, in fact all three, Michael, Gabriel, Raphael, for an added layer of protection.

My girlfriend Jacqueline Suttle interviewed Valerie at the time, for ATV, channel 15th, and she showed off her fluent knowledge of Aramaic, as a proof of her celestial intelligence. She was in fact talking jibberish, some incoherent mumble-jumble, on national TV.

This week Pastor Rey, the Episcopal vicar, made headlines exposing the Koyari story as undocumented and unreal and warned followers to stay away.

The headlines refreshed my memory about the apparition, and about the fact that alternative churches do well in Aruba, fundraising among followers, collecting ten percent of their income, and accepting gifts, as was the case with Valerie who brainwashed the former plantation owners, coercing them into giving their property away.

Happy Saturday

We were photo shooting for Island Temptations Magazine yesterday and will continue today. So I dug into the bottom of my drawer for a happy news item for Saturday morning and found one, which was much discussed in the local media this week.

Gas prices in Aruba went up recently, while the price of oil is going down, elsewhere in the world.

Apparently, when Valero managed our gas prices, it was under a system of checks and balances with our government, which controlled what they were asking.

But today, the entity in charge, the former Valero Marketing Services, is in the hands of the government, as part of the Valero/CITGO deal. No more system of checks and balances, they set the price, then they approve it. So now they may in fact increase the prices as they please, and that is why oil prices are down, but gas in Aruba is up 6 cents.

Most people did not question it, but I did hear some government official on the radio, defending the position, explaining that oil prices here are based on US Gulf Coast prices, adjusted every second Wednesday of the month. These prices remain relevant until the next second Wednesday of the month, except for interim tax and excise increases, which are decided locally.


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January 15, 2017
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