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Colombian environmental authority approves pilot project for fracking

Colombian environmental authority approves pilot project for fracking

During a protest against the use fracking in Bogota, Colombia, June 7, 2019, a woman holds an object that says: “Because money is worth more than water”. REUTERS/Luisa Gonzalez/File Photo

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BOGOTA, 28 March (Reuters) – Colombia’s environmental regulator gave Monday the green light to state-run oil company Ecopetrol (ECO.CN), to proceed with an exploratory pilot project using hydraulic fracturing – or fracking – despite opposition from environmentalists.

The first approval for a pilot fracking project in Colombia was given for the Kale project. It is located in Puerto Wilches in the northeastern region. According to the National Environmental Licensing Authority(ANLA), it will allow the installation one platform and one well.

“The viability and legality of the environmental license does not mean that investigative pilot projects can be passed to a commercial phase,” ANLA stated, adding that a committee will decide if commercial perforation or production can proceed.

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Commercial development of nonconventional energy resources is not allowed at this time. However, Colombia’s highest administrative tribunal has allowed pilot projects while it weighs the issue.

Ecopetrol and Exxon Mobil (XOM.N), have also submitted a request for approval for the nearby Platero Project.

Anti-fracking activists decried this decision, claiming it was too quick – in less that five months – and came amid increasing violence against environmental advocates.

The Colombia Free from Fracking Alliance stated that the decision was made “without the extensive and informed participation of communities in Puerto Wilches (region) and the Magdalena Medio [region], which have for more than 100 year suffered the consequences of social and environmental degradation associated with conventional hydrocarbon extraction,” in a statement.

Ecopetrol celebrated the announcement. It will be operating both the Kale project and the Platero project.

Ecopetrol stated, “The initial granting the environmental license for Kale is an important step in this exercise in scientific verification. Citizen participation is also encouraged.”

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Brig. Gen. William Glaser, Director of the Synthetic Training Environment Cross-Functional Team.

Although energy companies have long maintained that fracking is essential for Colombia’s energy independence, activists warn that it could harm the environment and pose a threat to communities.

The government claims that Colombia, which produced an average of 736 356 barrels per day of oil in 2021, has between three and nine billion barrels equivalent in potential production from non-conventional reserves.

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Reporting by Luis Jaime Acosta
Julia Symmes Cobb writes; Bill Berkrot edits

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