Attack on Caño Limón-Coveñas Pipeline Causes Oil Spill and ‘Environmental Emergency’ in Norte de Santander, Says Ecopetrol
Ecopetrol announced this morning that it has activated a contingency plan due to an “environmental emergency caused by an attack” on the Caño Limón-Coveñas pipeline in the department of Norte de Santander.
The attack, which Ecopetrol says was carried out by “groups outside of the law” at 1:30 am in the Guamalito district of El Carmen, has caused oil to spill into the surrounding area and threaten the nearby Cimitarra stream. According to the state-controlled oil company, this waterway feeds into an aqueduct that some 3,500 locals in Guamalito rely on.
The company said the process has begun to both suspend pumping oil through the 485-mile pipeline and shut off the opening of the aqueduct. Along with mobilizing specialized personnel to clean up the oil spill, local disaster risk management personnel and other authorities have also been notified of the emergency. Ecopetrol has asked those from the community to steer clear of the area to so that they are not affected by the inhalation of gases.
According to Reuters, the attack did not initially affect production at the pipeline’s main feeder site, the Caño Limón field, or oil exports. The Caño Limón oil field is operated by Occidental Petroleum Corp., a U.S. exploration and production company based in Houston.
“This is a desperate waste of resources at a time when the country needs every dollar of oil revenue possible,” said Bancolombia in a note to investors.
Though Ecopetrol did not identify the perpetrators of the attack, former presidential cabinet member and current peace negotiator Juan Camilo Restrepo said on Twitter that the attack a “senseless action of the ELN against the aqueduct of Norte de Santander.” He added that, “with terrorist attacks like this that affect non-combatant civilian populations, the ELN makes the Quito negotiations difficult.”
The ELN, or National Liberation Army, became Colombia’s largest guerrilla group after the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) demobilized and handed over its weapons to the United Nations earlier this year. The ELN has been negotiating its own peace deal with the government and Restrepo in Quito, but its members have continued to conduct acts of violence and belligerence in the ensuing months, causing some in the nation to wonder if the talks can succeed.
Ecopetrol says that this was the 31st attack already this year on Caño Limón-Coveñas, one of two primary pipelines transporting oil in Colombia. “Ecopetrol repudiates these actions that endanger people’s lives, violate international humanitarian law, and seriously affect the environment and the well-being of communities as well as the development of oil activities,” said the company in a statement.
Photo credit: Ecopetrol