(Energy Analytics Institute, Ian Silverman, 8.Jun.2019) — As part of Energy Analytics Institute’s ongoing coverage of the Latin America and Caribbean energy sectors from conventionals, unconventionals to renewables, Calgary-based Consultant Barry Blacklock weighs in on the fracking debate in Colombia and one of many headwinds to face the Andean country: water management.
Executive Profile: Barry Blacklock is a Canadian business development consultant who has been involved in a variety of projects throughout Latin America, especially in Colombia and Venezuela, and most recently was involved in a water management project in the Vaca Muerta shale play in Argentina.
What follows are excerpts from our series: LatAmNRG Q&A
ENERGY ANALYTICS INSTITUTE (EAI): What is a potential problem Colombia could face in terms of water usage and/or management in the fracking process?
BARRY BLACKLOCK: The major problem that companies have to face when developing shale resources is water management. Before fracking operations can begin, you need to have a source of water reasonably close to the site. Then you have to be able to transfer a significant amount of water to the site and put it in temporary storage until operations begin and the water is pumped into the well. This is normally done by assembling modular steel tanks on site that can be removed and moved to another site when fracking operations are complete.
ENERGY ANALYTICS INSTITUTE (EAI): What are the potential problems then that could occur after fracking operations are done?
BARRY BLACKLOCK: Operators will also have to have temporary tanks available to receive the flowback from the fracked well. Flowback is a mix of contaminated water, chemicals, and hydrocarbons. It has to be captured and stored and then it has to be treated and disposed of. This is hard enough in the piloting stage but becomes a very big problem when you get into commercial production.
Depending on how far you are transferring water and how you intend to deal with the flowback, you are likely to encounter a lot of resistance from local communities and farmers.
ENERGY ANALYTICS INSTITUTE (EAI): What about the potential for earthquakes, should that be a concern?
BARRY BLACKLOCK: Another issue that will surely crop up in Colombia is concern about the mini-earthquakes that fracking operations have caused in Canada and the U.S.
Earthquakes were caused by the injection of air to feed the in-situ combustion pilot that Pacific Rubiales had a few years back. Locals were afraid that their water aquifers would be contaminated, along with other concerns.