Latin America Advisor

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Will a Court Ruling Sink Colombia’s Plans for Fracking?

A recent ruling by a Colombian court brought a fracking pilot project to a halt. State-owned oil firm Ecopetrol will likely appeal the decision. // File Photo: Colombian Government.

A Colombian court in April suspended a fracking pilot project being carried out by state-run oil company Ecopetrol and U.S.-based ExxonMobil, on the grounds that the local community had not been properly consulted. The companies were given the green light to search for oil and gas using the fracking technique in February. Can the project be salvaged? Will environmental activists use the ruling to shoot down fracking ambitions in other parts of the country? What role is debate over fracking for oil and gas playing in the campaigns ahead of Colombia’s presidential election on May 29?

Karla Schiaffino, senior analyst of Latin America insights at Verisk Maplecroft: “The suspension of Ecopetrol’s fracking pilot project came weeks after the National Authority for Environmental Licenses (ANLA) had approved it. Since then, protests against the project have expanded beyond the local community in Puerto Wilches, in Santander province, suggesting a broader rejection of fracking. For instance, Indigenous communities staged a protest against fracking in Cali on April 22. We do not expect the outgoing Duque administration to be able to comply with the consultation requirements that the community that lives near the project has demanded, leaving the future of fracking in the hands of the next government. Furthermore, the demands from civil society to halt fracking resonate with the hesitancy of the Colombian presidential front-runner, Gustavo Petro, to develop these projects. Over the coming weeks, it is likely Petro will continue to stress the importance of water resources and question the necessity of fracking in order to maximize the political capital that comes with rejecting this practice. In the case of a Petro victory, it is likely that…”

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A sister publication of the Inter-American Dialogue’s daily Latin America Advisor, the weekly Energy Advisor captures fresh analysis from business leaders and government officials on the most important developments in oil and gas, biofuels, the power sector, renewables, new technologies, and the policy debates shaping the future of energy in the Western Hemisphere and beyond. To subscribe or for more information, contact Erik Brand, publisher of the Advisor, at

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