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108 million ha of Amazon rainforest up for oil and gas exploration, development

Oil blocks shown by phase – blue are potential lots, violet, bidding phase; yellow, exploration phase; and red, extraction phase. Click image to enlarge.

Concessions for oil and gas exploration and extraction are proliferating across Amazon countries, reports a comprehensive new atlas of the region.

The report, published by 11 civil society organizations and research institutions that form the Amazonian Network of Georeferenced Socio-Environmental Information (RAISG), relies on a range of sources to tally the oil and gas industry’s footprint in Earth’s largest rainforest. It finds areas blocked for oil and gas concessions amount to more than a million square kilometers or 14 percent of the Amazon. Exploration permits have been granted for 428,473 square kilometers, while exploitation licenses cover 40,717 sq km.

Peru has the largest number of potential oil zones covering 659,937 sq km. Overall 84 percent of the Peruvian Amazon is covered by oil blocks. The country is followed by Colombia (193,414 sq km – 40 percent of the Colombian Amazon), Brazil (127,862 sq km – 21 percent), and Bolivia (73,215 sq km – 15 percent). Guyana, French Guiana, and Suriname don’t have any oil blocks. Ecuador and Venezuela have active oil operations, but no outstanding exploration blocks.

Oil blocks in Amazon countries

Potential Bid Exploration Extraction Total % country’s Amazon land
Country Blocks sq km sq km sq km sq km sq km
Perú 92 253,447 133,336 262,385 10,770 659,937 84%
Colombia 102 170,003 21,367 2,044 193,414 40%
Brasil 55 126,843 1,019 127,862 3%
Bolivia 55 53,837 17,879 1,500 73,215 15%
Ecuador 14 24,957 24,957 21%
Venezuela 9 2,892 427 3,319 1%
Guyane Française
total 327 477287 136228 428474 40717 1082704

Oil and gas development is of concern in the Amazon because of the associated environmental impacts, including road construction, air and water pollution, and displacement of forest communities. Oil extraction in the Ecuadorean Amazon for example has been blamed for a number of social and environmental ills and is currently the subject of a multibillion dollar lawsuit originally filed on behalf of forest communities. However Ecuador is also notable in that it has offered to forgo oil development within Yasuni National Park provided it is compensated to do so. To date its fund has raised roughly $300 million of the 3.6 billion it says it needs to abandon exploitation.

The atlas, titled Amazonía bajo presión, also highlights other developments in the Amazon, including expansion of road networks, growing incidence of fire, a proliferation in hydroelectric projects, and a mining boom.

CITATION: RAISG 2012. Amazonía bajo presión [PDF-Spanish}

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