Ecopetrol wants to develop Platero fracking pilot project near Puerto Wilches, Colombia

Published by Brent Patterson on

Share This Page

Photo: The site of existing Manatí 1 conventional well where the Colombian state-owned oil company Ecopetrol wants to develop the Platero pilot fracking site. The Magdalena River is seen in the background. Image from the Podion Corporation.

The nonprofit environmental science and conservation news platform Mongabay reports: “Colombia has authorized two fracking pilot projects, Platero and Kalé, both in the municipality of Puerto Wilches, in the northeastern department of Santander.”

Please read “With fracking promising a quick energy boost, can Colombia say no?” by Dimitri Selibas in Mongabay.

Platero was first submitted to the National Hydrocarbons Agency (ANH) in March 2021. The ANH gave its provisional approval of that proposal later that month. It is now awaiting approval by the Environmental Licensing Authority (ANLA). Kalé was approved by the ANH in November 2020 and approved by ANLA this past February.

Both pilots would be operated by Ecopetrol.

In May, Ecopetrol said it expected to begin drilling at Kalé in October and at Platero in the first quarter of 2023. By September, the company reportedly asked the ANH to pause the contracts for 90 days pending a decision on the anti-fracking law.

Canadian interests in the pilot projects

On a PBI-Canada webinar in May of this year, Edmonton-based researcher Bronwen Tucker of Oil Change International shared a slide that says that Export Development Canada, the Government of Canada owned export credit agency, has provided $300,000,000 in financing to Ecopetrol between 2012 and 2020.

An Oil Change International co-authored report also documents that Toronto-based Scotiabank provided USD $665 million to Ecopetrol in 2018, another $666.67 million in 2020, and $1.7 billion in 2021 for a total of $3.0 billion in financing.

And Toronto-based Sintana Energy has confirmed it holds an undivided 30% non-operated participation interest in Block VMM-37 where Platero would happen.

Beyond this and Calgary-based Parex Resources having an exploration and production contract to frack (more on that below), Calgary-based Canacol Energy Ltd. has also commented that the two pilots are “positive steps towards realizing the commercial potential of the unconventional shale oil field in Colombia and specifically for the resources prospects that we have through our position in the Middle Magdalena Valley basin.”

If fracking were commercially approved in Colombia, Canacol would likely seek to explore and extract from the VMM-2/Plata and VMM-3/Piranga projects near San Martin, Cesar, in collaboration with the American transnational ConocoPhillips.

Threats against anti-fracking activists

The Mongabay article highlights: “During this period [2018 to the present], there’s been a rise in threats and violence against anti-fracking activists in Puerto Wilches, site of the two pilot projects. The [Alliance for a Colombia Free of Fracking] recorded 20 cases in the first four months of 2022, mostly targeting young women.”

In April 2021, 21-year-old Afro-Colombian anti-fracking activist Yuvelis Natalia Morales of Aguawil told PBI-Canada: “When we became a problem for the oil companies, those interested in promoting fracking and its economic benefits, they started to threaten, stigmatize, and silence us. More than eight of our youth have been threatened.”

The first death threat against Morales came in January 2021, not long after she had organized a protest in December 2020. Morales says: “Some armed men came to my house and trapped me. They put a gun to my head.”

Scotiabank’s climate commitments

Scotiabank has stated: “In support of the Government of Canada’s net-zero commitments, the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, and as a signatory to the Net-Zero Banking Alliance (NZBA), Scotiabank has made a commitment to being a net-zero bank.”

It adds: “We are committed to transparency on climate-related risks and will continue to align climate related disclosures with the recommendations of the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD). We disclose climate-related information in our Annual Report, ESG [environmental, social, and corporate governance] Report and annual CDP [carbon disclosure project] submission.”

It’s unclear how Scotiabank reconciles its financing of Ecopetrol, and allegations of Ecopetrol’s links with paramilitary violence against environmental defenders, with its stated commitment to the Paris Agreement on Climate Change.

Risk of “free trade” challenge

Mongabay notes: “[An] anti-fracking bill went through its first debate in parliament on Aug. 15 and still needs to go through another three rounds before it goes up for a vote.”

“There are also seven other contracts for non-conventional oil and gas extraction, worth a combined $517.4 million, signed between 2013 and 2016 with multinational companies Drummond, ConocoPhillips and Parex Resources.”

The article cautions: “Banning fracking and other non-conventional extraction could saddle Colombia with enormous legal bills as the companies that signed contracts could pursue claims through international investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) mechanisms for lost investment and future profits.”

Given the Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement, Parex Resources could be in a position to launch a multi-million-dollar ISDS challenge against Colombia.

We continue to follow this situation.

Photo: On June 28, PBI-Canada met with a PBI-Colombia accompanied CREDHOS convened meeting of social leaders in Puerto Wilches and heard their determination to stop fracking and to defend life, water and territory. On July 5, we shared those concerns with the Embassy of Canada in Bogota.

Share This Page
Categories: News Updates


Leave a Reply

Avatar placeholder

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *