BOGOTA (Reuters) – Colombia has temporarily approved oil company ExxonMobil Corp.’s plan to develop a pilot project for hydraulic fracturing, known as fracking, at the Valle Medio del Magdalena basin in the country, the oil regulator said Wednesday.
With Platero’s research project, ExxonMobil is the second company to start a fracking pilot project in Colombia, after the majority-owned oil company Ecopetrol.
The project is expected to attract $ 53 million in investment, Colombia’s National Hydrocarbons Agency (ANH) said.
The contract for the project is expected to be signed from April 8, an ANH spokeswoman told Reuters.
“We are pleased with the agency’s evaluation,” ExxonMobil spokesman Todd Spitler told Reuters in an email.
The development of unconventional energy deposits, including fracking for shale gas and coal bed methane, is highly polarizing in Colombia and the commercial development of such deposits is not permitted.
Colombia’s highest administrative court has upheld a moratorium on the commercial exploitation of unconventional energy deposits, but is holding hearings before a final ruling on the matter.
However, the court gave the green light for fracking pilot projects, with a view to gathering scientific information so that decisions can be made about the future development of unconventional energy deposits.
While energy companies have long claimed that fracking and other unconventional hydrocarbon sources are important to Colombia’s economy and energy self-sufficiency, environmental activists warn that it will damage the environment and threaten communities.