The president of Colombia’s state-owned Ecopetrol has announced the oil firm will process licenses for the use of fracking technology, saying that the company has a great interest in using the method to explore new petroleum wells.
Ecopetrol’s head Javier Genaro Gutierrez cited the U.S. state of Texas as an example of successful fracking, though he said there are positive and negative aspects, according to Radio Santa Fe.
“I invite you to see the fracking tower next to an elderly hospital [in the U.S.],” Gutierrez was reported as saying.
Hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” is the shooting of huge amounts of water and chemicals at high pressures to fissure rocks and release trapped natural gas.
In the Ronda Colombia 2014, the country’s latest round of auctioning off public land to private companies interested in hydrocarbon exploration and extraction, 19 of the 98 bids sold were for the development of fracking sites, according to Colombia’s Semana news magazine.
The government is therefore keen to develop alternative methods of advancing its hydrocarbon sector, which makes up for more than half of the country’s exports and provides a crucial source of both foreign investment and national income.
Discussing the auctions, the vice-minister of mining and energy described the increased focus on fracking by saying, “We must continue to leverage the hydrocarbon sector for the development of the country.” In March a law was passed to expedite the process for allowing “non-conventional” drilling sites.
Latest data from the US Energy Information Administration shows 56% of natural gas revenue in Colombia was re-injected into oil extraction, signaling a potential for the industry to offset lower foreign oil investment and maintain development of the country’s most valuable export.
Ecopetrol, Colombia’s state-owned oil giant, along with Canadian based Talisman Energy, acquired the country’s two largest natural gas fields from BP in 2010. Almost all the associated profits since have been reinvested into its oil production capabilities.
Despite the supposed benefits of fracking, there are also serious environmental concerns.
Fracking can cause both the contamination of ground water and huge greenhouse gas emissions. Chemicals used to solidify the fissures can seep into the underground water wells while leaking methane from gas wells is significantly more powerful than CO2 as a greenhouse gas.
In 2012, the then Environmental Minister Juan Gabriel Uribe warned of the risks associated with fracking and called for serious environmental precautions to be taken if the industry would arrive more heavily to Colombia
- Ecopetrol tramitira licencias para el uso de tecnologia de fracking (Santa Fe Radio)
- El fracking llego a Colombia (Semana)