July 12, 2019 / 6:25 PM / 6 days ago

Ecopetrol's plan for fracking project hits new snag in Colombia

BOGOTA, July 12 (Reuters) - Colombia’s environmental authority said on Friday that it was suspending its evaluation of Ecopetrol’s request to start a fracking pilot project until an administrative court reinstates rules for tapping unconventional crude deposits.

The decision was a new snag in the state-owned oil company’s plan to spend $500 million on exploring unconventional deposits. Last year, the Council of State - tasked with ruling on administrative matters - decided to suspend regulations for tapping unconventional deposits, typically shale formations that contain oil and gas.

While the court holds hearings on the regulations, the National Authority for Environmental Licenses (ANLA) will suspend its evaluation of Ecopetrol’s request for an environmental license for the massive unconventional crude deposit Guane-A, ANLA said in a statement.

The decision will likely mean a longer wait if and when the Council of State authorizes the regulations.

Fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, is not yet in use in Colombia. But President Ivan Duque supports exploring whether fracking can help boost the country’s oil reserves without polluting the environment. The process faces stiff opposition form left-leaning lawmakers, community leaders and environmentalists.

Colombia produced an average of 865,127 barrels per day in 2018, and has between 3 billion and 9 billion barrels of oil equivalent in unconventional deposits, according to the government.

Fracking could nearly triple Colombia’s reserves of crude and gas, the government has said. (Reporting by Luis Jaime Acosta, writing By Mitra Taj; Editing by Steve Orlofsky)

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