1920, oil was discovered off the Venezuelan coast which signaled a
new era for Curaçao making it a global center even before globalization
was a key component of the 20th Century. Curaçao's Royal Dutch
Shell Refinery became the island's biggest business and employer.
Immigrants from the surrounding Caribbean, South America and as far
away as Asia headed to the new Caribbean Mecca.
America and its Allies back in World War II, found Curaçao
and its refinery to be strategic enough, and established an American
military base at Waterfort Arches, near Willemstad.
The refinery today is a sprawling expanse of metal pipes, chemical
converters and concrete by Willemstad's bay, and is Curaçao's
largest business and employer, with 1,030 workers and about 350 contract
At an average processing level of 210.000 barrels a day and it contributes
to an estimated US$120 million yearly to the local economy.
Built in 1915 by Shell and now leased by the local government to PDVSA
(a state owned Venezuelan oil and gas company) for US$11 million yearly,
the refinery produces gasoline, lubricants, jet fuel, propane and
It also is the largest oil transshipment terminals in the Caribbean,
with storage capacity of 17 million barrels and about 50 percent of
its production is sold to Central America and the Caribbean, 15 percent
is sold to the United States and Canada, 15 percent to South America
and the rest within Curaçao and neighboring Bonaire.