The Role of the Oil and Gas Industry in the Colombian Post Conflict Process

The Colombian Association of Petroleum Engineers (Acipet) hosted its 17th Oil and Gas Congress, where topics like the role of the industry in the post-conflict process were debated.

Peace Commissioner Rodrigo Rivera said the government has "removed the factor of disturbance, insecurity and violence from areas where the oil sector operates,” and added that the government’s negotiating team is working to achieve peace with the ELN, which will be a key element to guarantee security for companies in producing regions.

Former Vice President of Colombia, Francisco Santos, spoke about another important issue when it comes to discussing the situation of the industry in the country. He said that "investors will go to other places if there are no (legal) conditions. Mexico opened its doors but here we have unstable rules and legal uncertainties that show a deterioration of industry conditions."

Former Minister of Environment and former Director of the National Licensing Agency (ANLA), Luz Helena Sarmiento, added that the number of attacks increased by more than 300% between 2001 and 2010.

For Juan Camilo Restrepo, Chief Negotiator of the Government, dialogues with the ELN are important to assure security to companies in producing regions, and catalogued the bilateral ceasefire with the ELN as ‘historical.’(HCC: The guerrilla made sure to attack an important oil pipeline three times in the week just before the ceasefire started. Really sounds like they are committed to negotiating!)

Another important challenge of the industry in the country is environmental security. Minister of Environment (MinAmbiente) Luis Gilberto Murillo highlighted the work that the government has done together with Gran Tierra Energy (TSX: GTE) in peace-building matters in the Putumayo, and acknowledged the importance of transparency measures when granting environmental licenses as an important measure that has been taken during President Santos’ government.

He added that after negotiations with the ELN, Colombia will need to make deep reforms to its environmental regulation, and he said that Santos’ administration has gone above and beyond to guarantee the environment’s protection.

Bottom-Line: The post conflict process is a reality for which Colombians might not be ready yet, but debates like this show that the industry can be seen as an ally to face it, rather than as part of the problem.

Putumayo was one of the most environmentally affected areas by the Farc (Colombia’s ‘Revolutionary’ Armed Forces and the world’s most ancient guerrilla), because it deliberately caused oil-related damage to turn the population against the industry. This kind of stigma must be overcome if the country wants a successful post-conflict process.

Tags: colombia, energy, hydrocarbons, latam, oil and gas industry, peace process, politics
Posted in LatAm, Energy, Energy