Colombia’s national government has approved the use of fracking, a highly controversial drilling technique for extracting deeply buried natural gas deposits, in a bid to increase its reserves and sustain its hydrocarbon sector.
Current government estimates give Colombia about six and a half more years of oil production capacity before wells run dry.
The approval of fracking, which comes at the angst of many protest groups calling for a moratorium, reflects the government’s concern over increasing oil and gas reserves and extending the life of the country’s all important export industry and key lifeline to international exchange.
According to data from British Petroleum (BP), Colombia’s natural gas reserves are the lowest in the region, but because access to them has been largely restricted, the country also has the region’s second highest reserve-to-production ratio, meaning that opportunities to develop the industry are wide open as most reserves are mainly untapped.
But it wont be easy. In order to profitably develop these reserves, at least 10 wells need to be drilled simultaneously to achieve the necessary scale in operations. This requires significant management and coordination expertise, both between private and public organizations involved in production, licensing and regulation.
Without this tight integration between all actors across the industry as they pursue the necessary scale construction, learning and capital costs can quickly spiral out of control, putting the viability of the entire industry at risk.
For this reason, ministers, chief executives and industry agency officials have all traveled to Canada and the United States to learn from those companies who are already deeply involved – and experienced – in the fracking industry.
One of the trips this high level group made was to Eagle Ford, Texas, one of the US’ largest natural gas/fracking sites, where they met both with project engineers and government regulatory bodies, probing both for ways to launch Colombia’s fracking initiative with a jump start on the learning curve.