MONTEVIDEO – The Uruguay Free of Megamining environmental group said Tuesday it was concerned that officials might allow the use of hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” to produce oil in the Salto and Piedra Sola formations if petroleum is discovered in the areas.
The National Fuel, Alcohol and Portland Administration, or ANCAP, confirmed on Jan. 13 that 20 potential oil wells existed in the Salto and Piedra Sola formations in northern Uruguay.
The two formations may contain nearly 1.8 billion barrels of oil, the ANCAP said.
Uruguay Free of Megamining called on officials to ban the use of fracking, a controversial method that involves pumping a pressurized fluid – usually composed of water, sand and chemicals – into a shale formation to create a fracture in the rock layer and release trapped petroleum or natural gas.
“They say in the country that only conventional techniques will be used for its extraction and that fracking will not be resorted to, but the same ANCAP technicians who say this say the opposite abroad,” Uruguay Free of Megamining spokesman Raul Viñas said.
ANCAP said in a statement that only conventional drilling techniques would be used in the Salto and Piedra Sola formations, but officials of the same government agency told participants at foreign conferences that unconventional oil represented “a business opportunity for exploration and production” in Uruguay, Viñas said.
“On the other hand, they have signed contracts with foreign firms that accept the possibility of using fracking and the contracting companies have indicated this explicitly,” the Uruguay Free of Megamining spokesman said.
Uruguay should prohibit fracking to “put an end to this issue,” Viñas said.
Anti-fracking groups contend that the technique pollutes aquifers and causes earthquakes in the areas where drilling takes place.