Colombia to award two more contracts for fracking pilot projects within weeks

Published by Brent Patterson on

In a Global Action Against Fracking protest in Bogotá on December 11, 2020, the logos of ExxonMobil (that works in partnership with Toronto-based Sintana Energy Inc.), Ecopetrol and Drummond Energy were carried. Photo by Óscar Sampayo.

On January 27, Semana reported: “The Minister of Mines and Energy, Diego Mesa, said on Wednesday [January 27] that in the coming weeks the country will have two other contracts for fracking pilot projects signed.”

Mesa said: “We look forward to having at least two more investigative contracts in this first quarter of 2021.”

The article adds: “The other two companies that are already enabled to make unconventional deposit pilots in Colombia are Drummond and ExxonMobil [in collaboration with Toronto-based Sintana Energy Inc.]. The company that is in the process of enabling fracking pilots is Argentina’s Tecpetrol, which should have the go-ahead in February.”

“ConocoPhilips [and Calgary-based Canacol Energy Ltd.] had been enabled to do fracking pilots but by ‘matrix decisions’ and coronavirus pandemic affectations has decided to refrain from continuing with such projects in Colombia.”

And the article notes there will be four fracking pilot projects: “Three of the four projects will be carried out in the Middle Magdalena Valley basin, while the other initiative will be carried out in the Cesar-Ranchería basin (La Guajira).”

The first licence for a fracking pilot project was awarded by the National Hydrocarbons Agency (ANH) on November 25, 2020 to the Colombian state-owned oil company Ecopetrol for its Kalé project near Puerto Wilches, Santander.

From the Semana article noted above, the contracts to be awarded in the first quarter of this year (before March 31) are likely to be to Drummond, ExxonMobil, or Tecpetrol.

ExxonMobil in partnership with Sintana Energy (and its Colombian subsidiary Patriot Energy) would likely pursue the VMM-37 block in Puerto Wilches, Santander.

Puerto Wilches is situated in the Magdalena Medio region, a focal point for oil extraction and refining, as well as for threats against environmental human rights defenders.

In November 2020, Infobae reported: “18 social and environmental leaders of the Middle Magdalena were threatened with death through a pamphlet, signed by a paramilitary structure that called the ‘Black Eagles, Middle Magdalena Block’.”

Six of those threatened are members of the Alliance for a Colombia Free of Fracking, including Óscar Sampayo (who took the photo at the top of this article).

Environmentalists have called for a global ban on fracking given it “torpedoes our global efforts to tackle climate change and violates basic human rights.” Moreover, a researcher with the Columbia Center on Sustainable Investment has highlighted concerns that fracking could endanger the fragile peace process in Colombia.

In November 2019, Peace Brigades International hosted an advocacy tour in Canada with representatives from Barrancabermeja-based CREDHOS and Bucaramanga-based CCALCP speaking against fracking. Both Barrancabermeja and Bucaramanga are situated in Santander and within proximity of Puerto Wilches.

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