Colombian tribunal temporarily suspends fracking activities

Authorizing fracking in Colombia could significantly affect the environment and human health

Fracking has been cast adrift in Colombia after the State Council ruled to temporarily suspend the administrative actions by which the government authorized and fixed the criteria for unconventional hydrocarbon exploration and production.

This measure affects both the Decree 3004 of December 26, 2013, and Resolution N° 903341 of March 27, 2014.

The State Council deemed the conclusions of a warning issued by the Comptroller General in 2012 as relevant. Said warning indicated the risks of increased seismicity, water pollution, and adverse effects on health, all direct consequences of fracking activities in Colombia.

In this sense, the judge and vice president of this institution Ramiro Pazos Guerrero explained that authorizing fracking in Colombia could significantly affect the environment and human health.

The judge highlights that the discussion on fracking is more relevant in other countries “to the point that these types of decisions have been adopted through expert committees that advice the governments on its effects and suspend activities to move forward with the relevant studies.”

Fracking in a limbo in Colombia

The administrative suspension was mainly driven by the harmful effects of fracking on health. Recent research conducted in Colombia showed the harm that this activity could bring for the country. However, the evidence is not conclusive and its proponents must still build solid judiciary basis to move forward with the approval or ban.

“We needed to pave the way for its potential risks and harm to be declared acceptable and manageable while avoiding that it could be ensured through a different measure,” the Tribunal stated.

This temporary suspension was brought about as a precautionary principle in order to assess the risks of this activity.

“Indeed, there is minimum evidence of the potential harm derived from the apparent inefficiency of the measures adopted in the administrative proceedings required to authorize a technique.”

A blow for oil companies

Colombia is in the midst of a significant rise in oil production. This year, the country overtook Venezuela as the top Latin American crude exporter to the United States. It also exceeded its production goal by producing 800,000 barrels per day.

Fracking, the extraction technique that helped the U.S. grow its output from 6 million bpd to 11 million bpd in just one decade, improved the outlook for Colombian oil production.

The recently discovered La Luna geological formation, for instance, could potentially produce over 5,000 barrels of oil equivalent, more than three times the country’s current reserves. Exploiting this site could result in a production of 100,000 to 350,000 barrels per day, according to Universidad de Los Andes.

However, fracking would be necessary to unleash this potential.

For more information, check Energía16

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