Trans-Panama pipeline

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This article is part of the Global Fossil Infrastructure Tracker, a project of Global Energy Monitor and the Center for Media and Democracy.

The Trans-Panama Pipeline (in Spanish: Oleoducto Chiriqui Bocas del Toro) is an oil pipeline across Panama near the Costa Rican border from the port of Chiriqui Grande, Bocas del Toro on the Caribbean coast to the port of Charco Azul on the Pacific coast.


The pipeline originates at Chiriqui Grande Port in Bocas del Toro and terminates at Charco Azul Port, Panama.

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Project Details

  • Operator: Petroterminal de Panama (PTP)
  • Current capacity: 860,000 barrels per day
  • Length: 130 kilometers
  • Status: Operating
  • Start Year: 1982


The Trans-Panama Pipeline was opened in 1982 as an alternative to carry crude oil from the Pacific to the Atlantic Ocean.[1] In 1980s an average of 20 supertankers, each with a capacity of one million barrels of crude oil, arrived each month at Puerto Armuelles from Valdez, Alaska, for transportation to the Caribbean Sea.[2] Between 1982 and 1996 the pipeline transported 2.7 billion barrels of Alaskan oil to the U.S. Gulf Coast ports. After declining Alaskan oil shipments, the pipeline was closed in 1996.

In November 2003, the Trans-Panama pipeline was re-opened for transportation of Ecuadorian crude oil to U.S. Gulf ports.[3]

In 2005, Venezuela began talks about reversing the pipeline for its oil exports to China.[4] In May 2008, BP signed an agreement with Petroterminal de Panama S.A., according to which the pipeline was modernized and reversed to ship BP's Angolan and other crude oil to the U.S. West Coast refineries. BP acquired 5 million barrels of storage capacities and committed to secure shipments of 65,000 barrels per day.[1] On 28 August 2009, Tesoro oil company started reverse oil shipments through the pipeline to supply the Atlantic Basin oil to the Pacific Rim refineries.[5]

On 15 October 2009, Petroterminal de Panama S.A. signed a contract with Chicago Bridge & Iron Company to design and construct the second-phase expansion of terminal storage facilities.[6]

Technical features

The pipeline is 130-km long, and it has a capacity of 860,000 barrels per day.[3] Its terminal installations are located in Charco Azul Bay, 7 km south of Puerto Armuelles, Puerto Armuelles, with three docks constructed to receive supertankers, a system to treat ballast water, and three large tanks with a total capacity of 2.5 million barrels of crude oil. From 1979 to 1982, before construction of the pipeline, these facilities were utilized to transfer petroleum from large supertankers (200,000 tons) to smaller tankers (65,000 tons) that could transit the Panama Canal.[2]

Environmental concerns

Many environmental concerns about the pipeline have been raised by scientists and environmental advocates. However, PTP has applied little restraint in the construction and operations of the pipeline with respect to consideration of the environment. For example, the pipeline project was approved and completed before submission of an environmental impact assessment.[2] Furthermore, the environmental studies conducted appeared to have serious flaws and many omissions.[2] PTP did not give serious attention to the possibility of oil spills and the resulting effects on marine or terrestrial ecosystems. For example, studies regarding the impacts of an oil spill on the marine ecosystems were not performed.[2] Erosion control was minimal and thousands of tons soil were displaced during construction. Many forests, rivers and creeks were damaged or destroyed, resulting in negative impact on natural ecosystems. Pipeline construction through the mountains of Fortuna (Boquete and Gualaca) in Central Cordillera was later the base for the construction of the first road from Chiriqui to Bocas del Toro. The road construction resulted in overall biodiversity losses in the Palo Seco Forestal Reserve and buffer area along the coast from Chiriqui Grande to Almirante-Changuinola and Comarca Ngäbe-Bugle.


The pipeline is owned and operated by Petroterminal de Panama S.A., a joint venture of the Government of Panama and the NIC Holding Corporation located in the town of Melville, on Long Island (NY).[1][4] The Government of Panama, currently owning 40% of the company, plans to acquire the rest of shares in the company.[7]

Articles and resources


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 "BP Finds Shortcut To US West Coast Refineries", Downstream Today (2008-05-28). Retrieved on 2008-05-31. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 Suman, Daniel (1987). "Socioenvironmental impacts of Panama's trans-isthmian pipeline". Environ. Impact Assess. Rev. 7: 227–246. 
  3. 3.0 3.1 Fellers, Gordon (1 June 2004). "Where are the world's oil transit chokepoints?", Pipeline & Gas Journal. Retrieved on 2008-05-31. 
  4. 4.0 4.1 "Central America Energy Data, Statistics and Analysis - Oil", Energy Information Administration (November 2007). Retrieved on 2008-05-31. 
  5. Smith, Christopher E. (2009-08-28). "Tesoro starts oil flow through reversed Panama pipeline", Oil & Gas Journal, PennWell Corporation. Retrieved on 2009-09-05. 
  6. Watkins, Eric (2009-10-15). "Contract let for Panamanian terminal expansion", Oil & Gas Journal, PennWell Corporation. Retrieved on 2009-10-17. 
  7. "Republica de Panama acquires Petroterminal de Panama SA (pending)", Thomson Financial Mergers & Acquisitions (2008-04-22). Retrieved on 2008-05-31. 

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External resources

Wikipedia also has an article on the Trans-Panama pipeline. This article may use content from the Wikipedia article under the terms of the GFDL.

External articles