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Colombia investigating increases in earthquakes

The seismic activity in a formerly stable region is occurring in the country’s oil-producing region.
By Andrew Willis and Matthew Bristow, Bloomberg News Published: April 18, 2014

Colombian authorities are working with Pacific Rubiales Energy Corp. to investigate an increase in seismic activity in the nation’s biggest oil-producing area.

The Colombian Geological Service, or SGC, is looking into possible causes of a rise in the number of tremors in eastern Meta province, where the country’s second-biggest oil company has its main operations, SGC geologist Marta Lucia Calvache said by telephone this week.

Opposition Sen. Jorge Enrique Robledo and an oil workers’ union are blaming Pacific Rubiales’s Synchronized Thermal Additional Recovery, or STAR, technology, for the increase, an allegation the company says is unfounded. STAR is designed to increase flows by igniting oil in the well.

“The hypothesis is that the high temperatures and gases that are developing below are fracturing the rock,” Robledo, who plans to raise the issue during a congressional debate next week, said in an April 14 interview in Bogota.

The city of Puerto Gaitan, in the grassland and cattle-ranching region to the east of the Andes mountains, has been geologically stable, Calvache said. The geological service has recorded more than 250 quakes in the last year in the area, where Pacific and other oil producers have operations, compared with 10 from 1993 to 2011.

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