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On December 1, 2018, when President Andrés Manuel López Obrador took office, he said fracking wouldn’t be allowed. He reiterated this when he published 100 promises: “We won’t use extraction methods that affect the environment and drain water springs, such as fracking.”
But in reality, his energy and oil policies have been to allow and promote the use of fracking.
In 2019, the National Hydrocarbons Commission, an independent body in charge of granting permits to explore and exploit these resources, approved seven plans to “incorporate oils and gas in unconventional plays (productive extensions).”
According to the Energy Ministry (Sener), these are those deposits that “require horizontal wells with hydraulic fracturing.”
In an investigation carried out by NGO Alianza Mexicana contra el Fracking (Mexican Alliance against Fracking), documents reveal that from the seven plans approved by the National Hydrocarbons Commission in 2019, three are new explorations and four are an extension of previous agreements.
This means the National Hydrocarbons Commission has granted fracking permits to several companies despite the government’s commitment to ban this method.
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The seven fracking projects
According to the Encyclopedia Britannica, fracking is the“injection of a fluid at high pressure into an underground rock formation in order to open fissures and allow trapped gas or crude oil to flow through a pipe to a wellhead at the surface.”
In Mexico, modern fracking has been implemented since the 90s and results in freshwater contamination, wastewater pollution, and an increase in seismic activity.
Pemex Exploration and Production is in charge of six of the plan, while the other is led by a company called Operadora de Campos DWF. The projects are located in Tampico-Misantla, Veracruz, and Puebla.
The exploration of these fields is carried out using fracking. The plans are valid for the next 25 years and once they reach the exploitation phase, this will need fracking to extract the resources.
Moreover, the permits all similar. Their aim is to “evaluate the potential and incorporate reserves associated with unconventional oil and has plays (…) through the drilling of unconventional deposits.”
One of the projects, the A-1022-Tampico-Misantla, was approved for a conventional deposit and its aim was to explore and “continue the production if unconventional plays of the three deposits that are in an early production stage.”
All this information was obtained from the Hydrocarbons National Commission session celebrated on December 5, 2019.
According to documents obtained through a transparency process, the CNH and the Security, Energy, and Environment Agency (ASEA), fracking was used in two of these deposits after Andrés Manuel López Obrador won the presidential election.
Aroa de la Fuente, a member of the Mexican Alliance against Fracking, said “We started to notice that even when the President said fracking had no place, the CNH continued to grant permits to Pemex and other companies to carry out explorations and unconventional deposits. The government is relying on this technique by allocating a budget to it.”
De la Fuente adds that “accessing this information is not easy. You have to know the CNH, its channels, legislation, what is relevant and what is not, and how to request (the information” through transparency. It’s a puzzle that you have to put together and where there is no clear communication nor direct transparency.”
On October 23, 2017, Claudio de la Cerda, the director at the Hydrocarbons Exploration and Extraction department at the Sener, participated on the Hydraulic Fracturing forum: The current situation of the exploitation of hydrocarbons in Mexico, where he explained that unconventional deposits have “low permeability, are present in extensive areas, and are considered unusual.”
In order to explain the difference between conventional and unconventional deposits, the former official explained that while in a conventional deposit “the hydrocarbons flow naturally (…), an unconventional deposit requires horizontal wells with hydraulic fracturing.”
On average, each fractured well requires 21 million water liters, the equivalent of eight Olympic swimming pools.
Furthermore, more proof of the continuity of fracking policies during the current government is in the budgets.
Through Pemex Exploration and Production, in 2018, the previous administration allocated MXN 1,705 million to the Oil and Gas Investment in Lutitas. In 2019, the new government allocated MXN 3,350 million, almost twice as much money, to the project, while in 2020, MXN 4,655 million were allocated to fracking.
Moreover, Pemex’s 2019-2023 business plan, which was published on July 19, 2019, indicates that “continuing with the development of studies to evaluate the oil potential in plays.
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The negative effects of fracking
According to Roberto Ochandio, a former oil engineer and anti-fracking activist, fracking has a devastating effect on the environment: the use of water, water pollution, air pollution, the loss of natural gas, global warming, and an increase on seismic activity.
In Mexico, fracking was implemented since 2003. It is used in unconventional deposits, but it is also used as a stimulation technique, which is used when there is a decline in production.
According to an investigation launched by Cartocrítica, in collaboration with the Mexican Alliance Against Fracking, using the information provided by the CNH in 2018, at least 7,879 deposits in the country had been fractured at some point.
The companies that exploit the deposits must present a basic report to the CNH and when Cartocrítica requested the reports, the commissions sent them a list of 7,879 wells that were fractured once or more between 1994 and 2016; in total, the wells were fractured 36,000 times.
From these, 32,000 fracking operations were carried out during the production process. Since fracturing the wells during this stage boosts production, it is likely that fracking was performed several times to increase productivity in recent years; however, the National Hydrocarbons Commission reserves this information for two years, which makes it impossible to know if companies have reported the use of fracking since President López Obrador took office.
Cartocrítica also asked if the National Hydrocarbons Commission; the Security, Energy, and Environment Agency; the Energy Ministry, or Pemex has carried out any action to prevent fracking. The response was that none of these government departments had moved towards the banning of fracking.
After this article was released, President Adrés Manuel López Obrador said he would investigate if the National Hydrocarbons commission granted seven permits for fracking in 2019.
This content was originally published here.