In the middle of the Dutch Caribbean island of Curacao, a massive oil refinery interrupts an otherwise serene swath of palm trees, pastel buildings and proud cacti.
Known as the Isla complex, the industrial site is the source of noxious pollution that causes severe health problems and gives tiny, windy Curacao one of the highest per-capita carbon emissions rates globally, according to the World Bank.
But although the complex is struggling, it still generates substantial revenue for the government, provides thousands of jobs and is a hefty economic engine.
Last week, the state-run refining company, Refineria di Korsou (RdK), announced it had signed a sale agreement with the Geneva-based Klesch Group – looking to end a dispute that put the plant in the middle of a sanctions dispute between the United States and Venezuela.
Known for value investing, the commodities conglomerate privately owned by US entrepreneur Gary Klesch has been accused by critics of “vulture capitalist” activities for acquiring distressed assets in the petrochemical and metal sectors.
The lease to operate the facility held by Petroleos De Venezuela (PDVSA), the Venezuelan state-owned oil company, expired December 31 – which set off a scramble for a new company to own and manage Isla.