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Sunday, November 27, 2022

Colombia: Petro says no to fracking in the face of an expectant sector

BOGOTÁ ( Associated Press) – The hydrocarbon sector in Colombia awaits the next arrival of Gustavo Petro to power: the president-elect has declared his intention to accelerate the energy transition and limit new exploration licenses.

Petro, who will take office on August 7, is against the development of the first pilot projects of fracking, a technique used to extract gas and oil from deep rocks.

“There will be no fracking in Colombia,” he said the day before on Twitter in support of Susana Muhamad, whom he named environment minister.

This would interrupt the processing of multimillion-dollar contracts by state oil company Ecopetrol and harm the next government’s relationship with the sector.

Ecopetrol informed through its press office that the pilot hydraulic fracturing projects, called Kalé and Platero, are in the preparation phase and that civil works or operational activities have not yet been carried out.

“We have two contracts signed and in force with the National Hydrocarbons Agency (state) for the execution of the PPII (pilot projects) and a firm environmental license for the Kalé project, from which derive legal obligations for the company that we must comply with. ”, indicated the oil company.

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Pilot projects seek to collect evidence of fracking effects to make decisions about their commercial production. But environmentalists and the community of Puerto Wilches, in the northeast of the country and where they would take place, opposed them with protests and legal action.

The day before, the Council of State dismissed an action seeking the nullity of the fracking regulation, considering that the author had not sufficiently demonstrated that this regulation jeopardized the precautionary principle in environmental matters.

The court’s decision has caused concern among environmentalists. “The decision leaves open the possibility of advancing the contracts that were suspended” and that are for exploration and commercial exploitation by multinationals, told the Associated Press Lizeth Gómez, a lawyer at Podion Corporation, a member of the Alliance. .

“It is alarming, the decision does not subordinate the advancement of commercial fracking to the results of pilot research projects, which are guinea pigs to see the effects of fracking”, added Gómez, who hopes that the Petro government will be able to stop them definitively.

On the other hand, the hydrocarbon sector advocates carrying out pilots. Francisco Lloreda, executive president of the Colombian Petroleum Association (ACP), told the Associated Press that they are needed so that scientific research can determine whether this technique “can be performed reliably” and thus respond to the concerns of a sector of the population.

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Colombia would deplete its oil reserves in approximately 7.6 years and the sector fears that the country’s energy self-sufficiency will be put at risk. In addition, the sector contributes around 18% of the country’s tax revenue and is in the forefront of exports.

“It is very likely that at that time the country is in a critical situation of gas and oil reserves, which could lead the next government to consider the use of the technique and the best way to obtain information from the pilots for that decision. ”, added Lloreda.

Although in the Petro’s campaign he assured that he would suspend the new oil exploration licenses and that he would comply with those that are in progress, this is not entirely clear. José Antonio Ocampo, whom he named Minister of Finance, told the local press that he is against fracking but that the country should continue to export oil and look for gas.

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