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Chile’s state oil company charged with improper fracking

17 January 2020

Empresa Nacional del Petróleo (ENAP), Chile’s state oil company, has been charged with improper fracking in Tierra del Fuego, the country’s southernmost region. The Chilean environmental regulator, the SMA, charged ENAP on January 13 after it failed to follow protocols outlined in its permits for ‘hydro-fracking’.

Parque Nacional Tierra del Fuego - Image: Wikimedia
Parque Nacional Tierra del Fuego - Image: Wikimedia

According to the SMA, three of the six charges that have been brought against ENAP are serious enough to shut the company’s whole operation down. In a statement, ENAP said the fracking operation, called the ‘Arenal Project’, is a vital part of its commitment to supply the region with gas.

An ENAP spokesperson said, “For that reason, we view the SMA´s ruling with the utmost seriousness. At present we are analysing measures to take to... resolve the aspects brought to light by the SMA in the best way possible.”

Tierra del Fuego is an archipelago off the southernmost tip of the South American mainland and is divided between Chile and Argentina. Although Chile has few fossil fuels of its own, petroleum extraction is the main economic driver in the north of the region. 

ENAP has 10 days to establish a compliance plan or 15 days to dispute the SMA’s charges.

In October 2018, a leak from an ENAP oil processing plant in Tierra del Fuego affected an area of at least 6,000 square metres. The estimated 720,000 litres of crude spilled from the Cullen plant, operated by YPF of Argentina close to the Chile/Argentina border on the island. The spill was the largest ever recorded in the region.

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