Calgary-based Canacol Energy Ltd. appears ready to frack near San Martin and Puerto Wilches in Colombia

Published by Brent Patterson on

Photo of the blockade of the Picoplata 1 exploration field in the ConocoPhillips/Canacol Energy VMM-2 block in September 2016 from Semana Sostenible.

When Calgary-based Canacol Energy Ltd. last attempted to frack in Colombia, an estimated 9,000 people marched in San Martin, Cesar in opposition to this, there was a community blockade of their exploration site in September 2016, there was an instance where consortium trucks were escorted by armed personnel from the Army and the Police, and riot police were used to repress that protest the following month.

Residents reportedly faced stigmatization, police brutality and criminalization.

Despite this, the Canadian company appears poised to try to frack in the area once again.

Timeline and approval process

On October 28, Dinero reported: “According to the [National Hydrocarbons Agency, ANH] calendar, the final list of qualified companies [for proposed fracking pilot projects] will be known on October 29, the reception of proposals to carry out the pilots will be from November 3, and the award of projects and the conclusion of respective contracts will be given to as of November 23.”

That article adds: “[Ecopetrol] hopes that before the end of 2020, the contract to carry out the fracking pilots in Colombia will be signed.”

It also notes: “Three of the four pilots will be carried out in the Middle Magdalena Valley basin and will be operated by Ecopetrol, ConocoPhilips and ExxonMobil, while the other project will be developed in the Cesar-Ranchería basin (La Guajira) by the Drummond company.”

Bnamericas further confirms that Ecopetrol, ExxonMobil and Drummond Energy “have pre-qualified” in the selection process for fracking, while Patriot Energy “had an initial request declined for failing to comply with the terms of reference.”

And Reuters notes that Ecopetrol “hopes to begin operations on pilot projects for non-conventional energy deposits by the end of next year.”

Canadian companies

While Dinero suggests ExxonMobil will conduct a fracking project, Bnamericas casts some doubt on the role its partner Toronto-based Sintana Energy and its subsidiary Patriot Energy Oil & Gas Inc. will play in the VMM-37 bock near Puerto Wilches, Santander.

But with ConocoPhillips seemingly confirmed that brings in its partner Calgary-based Canacol Energy Ltd. in the VMM-2 and VMM-3 blocks that would impact several communities in the Magdalena Medio including San Martin, Cesar and Puerto Wilches, Santander.

Last month, Charle Gamba, the President and Chief Executive Officer of Canacol, told La Republica: “We have two unconventional oil blocks that we have located in Magdalena Medio for eight years to pilot fracking. We are awaiting the regulatory framework, but we hope to run these pilots in the next two years.”

Past concerns about ConocoPhillips/Canacol

As noted above, the residents of San Martin mobilized against fracking.

Radio Nacional de Colombia has also reported: “Blockades, demonstrations and even threats have surrounded the fracking controversy in [San Martin]. …Environmentalists and a large part of the community of San Martín oppose its implementation due to the harmful effects it could have on the environment and health.”

By July 2019, Petroleum Economist reported: “Two shale pilot projects were shelved by licensing authority ANLA after operators US independent ConocoPhillips (80pc stake) and Canada’s Canacol (20pc stake) failed to meet minimum environmental requirements.”

Reuters had also noted that: “The companies did not meet minimum conditions for the Piranga project [at VMM-3], a source from the licensing authority said, while the Plata project [at VMM-2] raised possible water protection concerns.”

Peace Brigades International continues to watch this situation closely, particularly in relation to the communities and land and environmental rights defenders who oppose fracking for its impacts on human rights, the land, water and peoples.

Map by ConocoPhillips.

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