No Fracking in the Guaraní Aquifer in Uruguay

The Guaraní Aquifer System is being threatened in Uruguay and Argentina by a drilling scheme in search of hydrocarbons that can irreversibly contaminate the soils and underground deposits.


The Guaraní Aquifer is a natural reservoir of fresh water whose surface spreads beyond the borders of four countries: Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay. It  is said that it represents 20% of the world’s freshwater reserves.  In February 2012, ANCAP (The National Fuel, Alcohol and Portland Administration) granted US based Schuepbach Energy two contracts for hydrocarbon exploration and exploitation in the Piedra Sola and Salto concessions in Uruguay’s north basin. A few months later, the Australian oil company Petrel Energy bought 25% of Schuepbach Energy, increasing its stake to 51% one year after. According to Petrel’s, both concessions have a potential for unconventional (fracking) and conventional oil exploitation.

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Basic Data
NameNo Fracking in the Guaraní Aquifer in Uruguay
Accuracy of LocationHIGH local level
Source of Conflict
Type of Conflict (1st level)Fossil Fuels and Climate Justice/Energy
Type of Conflict (2nd level)Shale gas fracking
Water access rights and entitlements
Specific CommoditiesCrude oil
Natural Gas
Project Details and Actors
Project DetailsThis is an Uruguayan-Argentinian conflict. In October 2012 Petrel acquired an interest in a large conventional and unconventional petroleum project in Uruguay. The project comprises two concessions, Piedra Sola and Salto, covering 3.5 million acres which are held under separate production sharing contracts.

Petrel's initial entry was acquired by a US$2.5 million investment for 25% of Schuepbach Energy International LLC (SEI), a private US company, holding the Piedra Sola and Salto concessions.
Project Area (in hectares)250
Level of Investment (in USD)2,500,000
Type of PopulationSemi-urban
Potential Affected Population2.000
Start Date2012
Company Names or State EnterprisesSchuepbach Energy Uruguay (SRL) from United States of America - owner
Petrel Energy from Australia - owner
Schlumberger from United States of America
Relevant government actorsComisión de Industria, Energía y Minería de la Cámara de Diputados; Dirección Nacional de Medio Ambiente de Uruguay (Dinama); The National Fuel, Alcohol and Portland Administration;
Environmental justice organisations and other supportersCoordinadora Ambiental Todas las Manos, COESUS Latinoamericana contra el Fracking, Foro Regional Contra el Fracking, Asociación Civil Ambientalista de Salto, Asamblea Ciudadana de Concordia, Asamblea Popular Ambiental Colón-Ruta 135, Foro Waj Mapu de Chajarí, Grupo Gensa de Paysandú, Paysandú Libre de Fracking, Paysandú Nuestro, Tacuarembó Por el Medio Ambiente, Argentina, América Latina, Rivera por la Vida Sustentable y el Agua, Uruguay Libre de Megaminería, Asociación Civil “Salteños en defensa de los bienes naturales”.
The Conflict and the Mobilization
Intensity of Conflict (at highest level)MEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
When did the mobilization beginPREVENTIVE resistance (precautionary phase)
Groups MobilizingLocal ejos
Local scientists/professionals
Citizen assemblies (mostly urban)
Forms of MobilizationBlockades
Development of a network/collective action
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Official complaint letters and petitions
Public campaigns
Street protest/marches
Environmental ImpactsPotential: Other Environmental impacts, Air pollution, Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Floods (river, coastal, mudflow), Food insecurity (crop damage), Global warming, Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Noise pollution, Soil contamination, Soil erosion, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover
OtherPotential: Risk of earthquakes;
Health ImpactsPotential: Exposure to unknown or uncertain complex risks (radiation, etc…)
Socio-economic ImpactsPotential: Displacement, Loss of livelihood, Militarization and increased police presence, Violations of human rights, Loss of landscape/sense of place
Project StatusProposed (exploration phase)
Pathways for conflict outcome / responseNew legislation
Strengthening of participation
Under negotiation
Application of existing regulations
Development of AlternativesBeyond moratoria. The Uruguayan government announced the decision to support a moratorium on ‘fracking’ for four years. But for environmentalists, this is not a solution because it keeps that possibility latent. They are looking for the total prohibition.
Do you consider this as a success?Not Sure
Why? Explain briefly.It is very soon to respond this question as the mobilisation and actions are very recent. However it seems that the strengthening of participation between activist from both countries Argentina and Uruguay will be very potent. The issue of climate change (because of GHG emissions) is also an argument, apart from damage to water sources.
Sources and Materials

Strategic Action Program(SAP) for Guarani Aquifer
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Ante las exploraciones petroleras: Salteños se movilizarán en defensa del Acuífero Guaraní
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Denuncian que perforarán el Acuífero Guaraní en Uruguay y afectará a Entre Ríos
[click to view]

Represión por denunciar fracking en Acuífero Guaraní
[click to view]

¿Podría el fracking ser una realidad en Uruguay?
[click to view]

Fracking: el Gobierno pone en peligro al Acuífero Guaraní
[click to view]

Diputados discuten tres proyectos de prohibición del fracking; Uruguay Libre confía en que haya acuerdo multipartidario.
[click to view]

Entre Ríos se convirtió en la primera provincia en prohibir el fracking
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Petrel Energy increases stake in Uruguay & Spain in deal with Schuepbach Energy
[click to view]

Media Links

Tacuarembó por el Medio Ambiente
[click to view]

Activistas de Argentina, Brasil y Uruguay marchan contra fracking, 2 agosto 2017
[click to view]

Other Documents

Public Campaign
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Public Campaign
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Other CommentsThe Guaraní Aquifer is not a heritage of a locality or a nation. Beyond even the four countries that share it, it constitutes a primordial value for humanity because of the gigantic reservoir of water it contains, its environment and the support of life on the planet.
Meta Information
ContributorENVJustice Project
Last update24/09/2017