When the world gets closer.

We help you see farther.

Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter.

Already a subscriber? Log in .

You've reached your limit of one free article.

Get unlimited access to Worldcrunch

You can cancel anytime .


Exclusive International news coverage

Ad-free experience NEW

Weekly digital Magazine NEW

9 daily & weekly Newsletters

Access to Worldcrunch archives

Free trial

30-days free access, then $2.90
per month.

Annual Access BEST VALUE

$19.90 per year, save $14.90 compared to monthly billing.save $14.90.

Subscribe to Worldcrunch

Why Oil Firms Are Pumped About The Colombia Peace Deal

Decades of civil war have ravaged Colombia's environment and undermined opportunities at oil exploration. Now with peace looming, big and small firms alike are ready to pursue the government's "sustainable" energy plan.

Worker on petroleum platform in Colombia
Worker on petroleum platform in Colombia

BOGOTÁ After years of attacks and pipeline sabotage from Colombia's leftist guerrilla forces, and environmental protests of local activists and indigenous communities, the country's oil industry is smelling an opportunity with the historic peace deal between the government and the FARC to end half a century of civil war.

Just one figure may offer an idea of what big oil has lost in the government's battle against the forces of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC): Energy infrastructure like pipelines have been dynamited more than 2,500 times in the past three decades.

Now, the government has put out the Hydrocarbons Sector Territorial Strategy ("Estrategia Territorial del Sector Hidrocarburos"), to regulate the sector's "sustainable" future in territories pinpointed for exploration.

Big, medium and smaller oil firms have all declared their eagerness for a new era. "If we were in Colombia in the worst periods of conflict and insecurity, we'll certainly do so now that we can see the light at the end of the tunnel," says Orlando Velandia Sepúlveda, who heads the state hydrocarbons agency ANH, citing conversations with sector representatives.

The peace deal inked last week with the FARC, he says, "is the best news for the oil sector."

In the past three years, the country has spent more than 20 billion pesos ($6.8 million) in developing the new energy strategy, considered a model for peacetime economic development to be implemented in 12 departments across the country. The program has prevented at least 150 illegal acts against energy-sector activities that would have incurred losses to Colombia of more than 200 billion pesos ($68 million). "The war impeded evaluating" geological prospects in many regions, which Velandía says are now being "freed" for exploration.

Measuring the toll

Attacks against Ecopetrol's transport installations have spilled more than four million barrels of oil into the environment, the firm states in a report. Worst affected was the Limón-Coveñas pipeline, which has suffered more than 1,300 attacks, followed by the San Miguel-Orito pipeline, which in 2013 alone suffered 635 attacks using dynamite.

Ecopetrol has put the total cost of pipeline repairs at 500 billion pesos ($171 million). Many in Colombia see the energy sector as a potentially huge engine of development and source of money for social programs. The company did maintain its activities in several areas where guerrillas were active, notably the southern departments of Caquetá and Putumayo, and Arauca on the Venezuelan frontier.

Ecopetrol's president, Juan Carlos Echeverry, says the main challenge emerging from the peace accord is "to reach an understanding with these forces that are going from guns to politics, so they understand that we can pursue our activity with the highest standards to benefit all Colombians." But even if Ecopetrol may no longer have to worry about FARC, both indigenous groups and environmental activists will be following their every move.

You've reached your limit of free articles.

To read the full story, start your free trial today.

Get unlimited access. Cancel anytime.

Exclusive coverage from the world's top sources, in English for the first time.

Insights from the widest range of perspectives, languages and countries.


Life On "Mars": With The Teams Simulating Space Missions Under A Dome

A niche research community plays out what existence might be like on, or en route to, another planet.

Photo of a person in a space suit walking toward the ​Mars Desert Research Station near Hanksville, Utah

At the Mars Desert Research Station near Hanksville, Utah

Sarah Scoles

In November 2022, Tara Sweeney’s plane landed on Thwaites Glacier, a 74,000-square-mile mass of frozen water in West Antarctica. She arrived with an international research team to study the glacier’s geology and ice fabric, and how its ice melt might contribute to sea level rise. But while near Earth’s southernmost point, Sweeney kept thinking about the moon.

“It felt every bit of what I think it will feel like being a space explorer,” said Sweeney, a former Air Force officer who’s now working on a doctorate in lunar geology at the University of Texas at El Paso. “You have all of these resources, and you get to be the one to go out and do the exploring and do the science. And that was really spectacular.”

That similarity is why space scientists study the physiology and psychology of people living in Antarctic and other remote outposts: For around 25 years, people have played out what existence might be like on, or en route to, another world. Polar explorers are, in a way, analogous to astronauts who land on alien planets. And while Sweeney wasn’t technically on an “analog astronaut” mission — her primary objective being the geological exploration of Earth — her days played out much the same as a space explorer’s might.

Keep reading...Show less

The latest