ExxonMobil withdraws from fracking project near Puerto Wilches, Canadian partner expresses disappointment

Published by Brent Patterson on

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On June 28, 2022, 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.

Their concerns included the Platero fracking pilot project backed by the Canadian company Sintana Energy Inc.

This pilot project was one of two that were to happen near their community.

Now, Blu Radio reports: “The US oil company Exxon Mobil notified Sintana Energy Inc. of the suspension of a joint operating contract (JOA) it had with the subsidiary Patriot Energy Oil and Gas Inc., in Colombia.”

The article also notes: “The notice also states that Exxon Mobil will withdraw from the contract with the National Hydrocarbons Agency (ANH) after obtaining approvals [signed in June 2021] from the national government. The company specifies that both the JOA and the contract with the ANH belong to a block of 17,465 hectares known as VMM-37 that is located in Puerto Wilches, in Santander.”

El Heraldo adds: “The international oil company is withdrawing from the operation of the fracking pilot called Platero with the company Patriot Energy Oil and Gas Inc, a subsidiary of Sintana. The measure will be effective as of May 31, 2023.”

Platero was to take place on Block VMM-37.

Sintana Energy Chief Executive Officer Doug Manner says: “We are disappointed that our VMM-37 partner for more than a decade, ExxonMobil, has voluntarily chosen to withdraw from both the JOA and Contract. Management has engaged legal and technical advisors for assistance in addressing this unexpected change of events”.

The company’s media release also notes: “The Company fully reserves its rights under the contracts governing VMM-37 and applicable laws and regulations.”

Another media release from Sintana Energy dated April 16, 2021, also confirms that VMM-37 refers to the “Project Platero” fracking pilot project and that Sintana’s wholly-owned subsidiary Patriot “holds an undivided 30% non-operated participation interest in a Contract for Exploration and Production for Block VMM-37.”

Sintana describes itself as: “a Canadian crude oil and natural gas (‘hydrocarbons”) exploration and development company listed on the TSX Venture Exchange (“TSXV”).” It also notes that it has an office at “82 Richmond Street East, Suite 201, Toronto, Ontario M5C 1P1.”

The Platero fracking pilot project proposal was first submitted to the Colombian National Hydrocarbons Agency (ANH) on March 17, 2021.

The ANH gave its provisional approval of that proposal on March 31, 2021.

The application for the Platero project was then filed with the National Environmental Licensing Authority (ANLA) on February 15, 2022.

Threats against environmental defenders opposed to fracking

In 2019, the State Council, Colombia’s high court for administrative law issues, allowed for fracking pilot projects.

Following that decision there has been a rise in threats and violence against anti-fracking activists in Puerto Wilches.

On a PBI-Canada organized webinar in April 2021, Morales stated: “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.”

Mongabay also reports: “The ACLF [the Colombia Free of Fracking Alliance] recorded 20 cases in the first four months of 2022, mostly targeting young women.”

We welcome the news of ExxonMobil withdrawing from the Platero project particularly given the threats faced by environmental defenders.

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