Gran Tierra understands and shares the Colombian people’s desire to protect their country’s rivers, lakes and other water resources. With that in mind, GTE is implementing stringent water protection and remediation policies, many of which exceed regulatory requirements.
Gran Tierra believes that the protection of freshwater is an essential part of responsible oil and gas exploration and production. The company is committed to the following four priorities to ensure that its operations do not have an impact on groundwater and aquifers:
- Proven Technology to isolate drilling operations from the environment.
- Constant Monitoring of groundwater quality where the company operates.
- Regular testing of 106 ground water monitoring wells on a regular basis. 14 in the Middle Magdalena Valley, 55 in Putumayo, and 37 in Casanare.
- Confirmed Results—Independent monitoring and testing to confirm that Gran Tierra has fully safeguarded groundwater quality throughout its history of drilling operations in Colombia.
In addition to its four priorities, Gran Tierra has voluntarily and proactively taken a number of actions to protect Colombia’s water:
- Reduced the use of surface water for pressure maintenance in wells.
- Minimized the release of treated produced water, which is a byproduct of the process of extracting oil from the ground, into surface bodies like streams and lakes. This water is treated and tested to ensure it meets all regulatory standards prior to release. Although this practice is authorized in Colombia, it is Gran Tierra’s goal to eliminate the practice of discharging produced water to surface water bodies.
Inviting Communities to Participate in Water Monitoring
In accordance with company policy and Colombia regulations, Gran Tierra regularly monitors and analyzes surface and groundwater using an external lab certified by government authorities; however, a myth that the company often encounters in communities is that lab results released by a corporation must be compromised. To counter this, in 2017, GTE initiated a practice in southern Putumayo of telling communities that the company would fund their independent study if the communities wanted to hire their own laboratory (as long as it is certified by Colombian regulators). GTE then takes its own samples and compares them with the communities’ sample and shows the results at a community meeting.
“With GTE, we’ve always had a dialogue and have always been able to work out any issues. It’s clear that GTE wants to show us that they have nothing to hide, and we’ve worked together very well with the company on different environmental and social initiatives.”YURI MARCELA TORO VELEZ, Legal Representative of Campo Alegre Village
Water Processing and Monitoring
Gran Tierra carefully manages its wastewater, much of which is generated in the form of “produced water.” GTE’s Environmental Management Plan lays out the company’s plan to avoid potential impacts to surface water sources.
Produced water, which was generated as a byproduct of the process of extracting crude from the Los Angeles field in Colombia’s Middle Magdalena Valley, is treated using an all-natural process which relies on microorganisms to remove impurities. Depending on the need, the water is aerated which increases the supply of oxygen, causing the microorganisms to work faster, and allows greater volumes to be processed. Before it can be released, the treated water is regularly tested to ensure that it meets rigorous standards for purity.
Reinjecting produced and domestic wastewater is a practice used in multiple fields operated by GTE. During reinjection, the wastewater is treated to a standard that would allow reintroduction to surface water sources but is instead strategically pumped thousands of metres deep underground, well below subsurface water sources like aquifers, into oil producing formations that supply the company’s wells. In addition to minimizing any impact to water sources, this practice of safely discharging wastewater aids production from existing wells by increasing subsurface pressure. GTE maintains a network of piezometer monitors to ensure there is no impact to the quality of groundwater in the area. In accordance with GTE’s EMP, the company plans to design new projects in a manner to avoid any discharge into surface water courses.
GTE’s Environmental Management Plan requires visual and equipment-assisted inspections (e.g., turbidity monitors), to regularly check the water quality in the receiving rivers and lakes affected by construction activity, such as increased turbidity, smells or colour changes. Inspections also include sampling of wastewater discharges and receiving water bodies adjacent to construction sites and construction camps.