Brazil: Chinese investment in Itaboraí oil refinery brings back employment, but environmental concerns remain

Author: Manuela Andreoni, Chinadialogue , Published on: 14 January 2019

“Chinese investment brings hope to a fallen city”

[Itaboraí, where the Comperj oil refinery project is located, was among the cities hit hardest by Operation Carwash - a widespread corruption investigationthat indicted over 100 top politicians and business executives] …[I]n March last year things started to look up. Petrobras hired a consortiumled by Chinese company Kerui Petroleum to build a natural gas processing unit at the site. Slowly, workers returned. Then, in October, Petrobras signed a contract with China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) to resume construction of the refinery. Under the deal, CNPC would control 20% of the new facility.

Though many celebrate the revival of economic activity after years of crisis, not all share the enthusiasm. Environmentalists are concerned about the pollution of air and waterways in Guanabara bay, an area where contamination threatens the extinction of dolphins…. The refinery also raises questions about the long-term benefits to a region already highly dependent on oil. According to some estimates, Comperj will create between 8,000 to 10,000 jobs. Around 800 are already working. Breno Herrera, a former head of the Guapirim protection area…says Petrobras failed to recover native vegetation in the region that would mitigate Comperj’s impact. Petrobras denies this. He hopes CNPC will be more responsive to pressure from environmental campaigners. Herrera admits the region needs jobs. However, aside from construction work, he says there are opportunities for the town in replanting trees and cleaning rivers.

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Related companies: China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC)