Ecopetrol confirms fracking pilot projects will advance, while Canadian companies look forward to commercial production

Published by Brent Patterson on

Photo: Activists paint message on road in front of Ecopetrol office in Bogota.

On December 18, Vanguardia reported that Felipe Bayón, the president of Ecopetrol, Colombia’s largest oil company, has stated that the pilot projects for fracking will proceed in the municipality of Puerto Wilches, Santander department in 2022.

“According to Bayón, the first pilot of the drilling tasks will be carried out in the unconventional deposits of Kalé and Platero, located in Puerto Wilches.”

The article notes: “The president of the company had already revealed that, according to the investment plan for 2022, some US$700 million will be allocated to unconventional wells and, specifically, for Kalé and Platero an amount of US$20 million is contemplated.”

“Bayón recalled that the oil company has already submitted the corresponding documentation for the achievement of the environmental licence in Kale and in the coming months the same procedure will be carried out for Platero.”

Diario del Huila also reports: “The president of this company, Felipe Bayón, said that although it is estimated that the extractions will begin in 2023, they could be advanced to 2022 if everything goes well.”

And Valora Analitik further specifies: “Bayón indicated that the company presented the application for the permits to the National Environmental Licensing Authority (ANLA) in Kalé.”

That article quotes Bayón saying: “We are moving forward to be able to present, in a few weeks, that of Platero. Once we have the environmental licenses, we will proceed to carry out the physical activity of construction of wells and the implementation of fracking.”

Criticisms and concerns continue.

Vanguardia quotes Julio Cesar Hoyos, a social leader in Puerto Wilches, who says: “Here, there are already more environmental and human rights activists fighting for water saying that if in Europe they are banning [fracking], why here they allow it.”

That article also quotes Miguel Francisco Contreras, a lawyer at the Environmental Conflicts Observatory, who says the environmental impacts will be seen in the Cienaga de Paredes, where the white manatee lives, declared in the process of extinction.

And last month, Verdad Abierta quoted environmental defender Óscar Sampayo of the Yareguíes Regional Corporation, who says: “Despite the fact that extractive activity imposes its dynamics and interests, we believe that this territory is more than oil and the false illusion generated by extractive activity.”

Canadian transnationals and fracking in Colombia

Several Canadian transnationals hope that the fracking pilot projects in Puerto Wilches will lead to full-scale commercial fracking in Colombia.

Canacol Energy (and its subsidiary CNE Oil and Gas)

In June of this year, the CEO of Calgary-based Canacol Energy Ltd. commented: “The objectives of these [fracking pilot projects] are to demonstrate that this important resource can be developed in an environmentally safe way, similar to how the same unconventional resources have been implemented in the United States and Canada.”

Canacol holds a 20 per cent stake in the VMM-2/Plata and VMM-3/Piranga projects in the Magdalena Medio region. The American transnational ConocoPhillips holds the remaining 80 per cent stake.

Semana Sostenible has reported: “Cesar-Ranchería Basin contains Block VMM-2 and Block VMM-3. Activity in these blocks would interfere with four municipalities in the department of Cesar (San Martín, Aguachica, Río de Oro and Gamarra) and one municipality in the department of Santander (Puerto Wilches).”

Sintana Energy (and its subsidiary Patriot Energy Oil & Gas Inc.)

In April, Toronto-based Sintana Energy Ltd. welcomed the news of the U.S. company ExxonMobil being granted a pilot project contract for Platero/VMM-37 (an area of land that ExxonMobil co-owns with Sintana) and stated that the fracking pilot projects should provide an effective path forward for future operations.

The company added: “[The pilot project] process should now provide an effective path forward for the testing and production of source rock hydrocarbons in future operations.”

Parex Resources

In March 2019, Colombia’s then-Mines and Energy Minister Maria Fernanda Suarez (it’s now Diego Mesa Puyo) stated that Calgary-based Parex Resources Inc. was among the companies “seeking to operate” a fracking block.

Sampayo has noted: “What worries us is that in 2014 Parex directly entered Magdalena Medio in block VMM9. This block is in the municipality of Cimitarra in Santander. That block is destined for the development of a nonconventional deposit using fracking.”

Frontera Energy

And while not reported as a contender for fracking, Toronto-based Frontera Energy is a minority owner in 236,000 barrel per day pipeline that runs from the Magdalena Medio region to Coveñas on the Caribbean coast that is reportedly ready to move increased crude output if fracking is approved beyond the pilot projects.

In November 2019, PBI coordinated an advocacy tour in Canada with representatives from the Regional Corporation for the Defence of Human Rights (CREDHOS) and the Luis Carlos Pérez Collective Lawyers Corporation (CCALCP) who highlighted their concerns about fracking at numerous meetings across the country.

We continue to follow this situation with concern.

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