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Niscota oil block in Boyacá and Casanare, Colombia

The Niscota oil block is notorious for its history of extreme violence that thugs, military groups, and guerillas perpetrate against locals and activists. One prominent murdered activist was Rosa Helena Bernal Pinto, killed in December 2012.


In May 2000, as part of the government´s aggressive policy adjustments for attracting multinationals, British Petroleum (BP) and state-owned Empresa Colombiana de Petróleos (Ecopetrol) signed an oil exploration contract for the Niscota oil block covering 62,275ha of land in the northeastern part of the Andes mountain range encompassing the municipality of Paya in Boyacá as well as the municipalities of Paz de Ariporo, Támara, Nunchía, and Yopal in Casanare [7]. In July 2005, however, BP and Ecopetrol returned their shares owing to not having a promising exploration phase. BP did drilling in the area that reached depths of 19,000 feet (5,795 meters) without positive results, despite requiring investments of about $80 million. Yet In September 2006, the National Hydrocarbons Agency then sold additional oil contracts to Total, Repsol, Corporinoquia, Equión, Tempa, Perenco, Hocol (subsidiary of Maurel & Prom), Pluspetrol, Talisman, and Lukoil, as well as recontracted those of Ecopetral and BP [6].

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Basic Data
Name of conflict:Niscota oil block in Boyacá and Casanare, Colombia
State or province:La Libertad, department of Boyacá
Location of conflict:Paya
Accuracy of locationMEDIUM (Regional level)
Source of Conflict
Type of conflict. 1st level:Fossil Fuels and Climate Justice/Energy
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Oil and gas exploration and extraction
Specific commodities:Crude oil
Natural Gas
Project Details and Actors
Project details

The Niscota block is at the bottom of the Andes mountain range 300 kilometers northeast of Bogota. The block comprises of a gas condensate field, an exploration well named Huron-1, and several other wells. Niscota has drilled 5,500 meters deep into an area with a high concentration of fault lines to reach several oil reservoirs producing an estimated 3,400 barrels daily of natural gas [2]. The fields also produce at least 50,000 barrels of liquid oil daily [3]. The fields' liquids are exported to the coast through the Ocensa pipeline (Total, 15.2%), while the gas is sold to the domestic market, mainly in Bogota [5]. On 16 July 2002 the newspaper El Tiempo had announced, "COLOMBIA LE APUESTA A NISCOTA. Las expectativas de hallazgos de reservas de crudo en la región están centradas en un proyecto de exploración que se iniciará próximamente en jurisdicción de Casanare y cuyo radio de acción se extiende hasta Boyacá". [11].

Project area:62,275
Type of populationRural
Start of the conflict:05/2000
Company names or state enterprises:British Petroleum (BP) from United Kingdom
Total SA (Total) from France
Ecopetrol from Colombia
Repsol S.A. (Repsol) from Ecuador
Corporinoquia from Colombia
Equión energía limited from Colombia
Tempa from Colombia
Perenco Oil and Gas Co. from France
HOCOL S.A. (HOCOL ) from Colombia
Pluspetrol from Argentina
Talisman Energy from Canada
Lukoil from Russian Federation
Relevant government actors:Colombian Ombudsman's Office, the Attorney General's Office, the Prosecutor's Office, the Ministries of Environment, Mines and Energy, the Environmental Licensing Authority, the National Hydrocarbons Agency
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:The Claretiana Corporation " Norman Pérez Bello".
The Association of Campesinos y Campesinas (AsoCamprovLibertad)
Conflict & Mobilization
IntensityHIGH (widespread, mass mobilization, violence, arrests, etc...)
Reaction stageIn REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)
Groups mobilizing:Farmers
Indigenous groups or traditional communities
International ejos
Local ejos
Local government/political parties
Religious groups
Forms of mobilization:Development of a network/collective action
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Street protest/marches
Arguments for the rights of mother nature
Appeals/recourse to economic valuation of the environment
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Food insecurity (crop damage), Groundwater pollution or depletion
Potential: Global warming, Soil contamination, Oil spills
Health ImpactsPotential: Exposure to unknown or uncertain complex risks (radiation, etc…), Violence related health impacts (homicides, rape, etc..)
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Increase in violence and crime, Loss of livelihood, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Militarization and increased police presence, Violations of human rights, Land dispossession, Specific impacts on women
Project StatusIn operation
Conflict outcome / response:Corruption
Deaths, Assassinations, Murders
Court decision (undecided)
Violent targeting of activists
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:No
Briefly explain:There has been complete impunity for all the social and environmental violences, including killings of activists. Locals are too afraid for their lives to act.
Sources & Materials

[1] TeleSUR. 13 campesinos son amenazados en Boyacá, Colombia (2016)
[click to view]

[2] NS Energy. Total Announces Gas Condensate Discovery At Niscota Block In Colombia (2009)
[click to view]

[3] Europetrole. Talisman Energy and Ecopetrol Agree to Acquire BP Exploration Company (Colombia) Limited (2010)
[click to view]

[4] Prensa Libre. Acción Popular contra proyecto petrolero Niscota (Angelok 2017)
[click to view]

[5] Rigzone. Total Acquires Interest in Colombia's Niscota Block (2006)
[click to view]

[6] El Economista. Agencia hidrocarburos adjudicará bloque Niscota (2006)
[click to view]

[7] Caracol. BP prevé perforar en promisoria zona petrolera Colombia en julio (2002)
[click to view]

[click to view]

[9] FIDH. Assassination of Mrs. Rosa Helena Bernal Pinto (2012)
[click to view]

[10] Colectivo de abogados. Asesinada Rosa Helena Bernal Pinto y otros dos pobladores (Cajar 2012)
[click to view]

[11] El Tiempo, 16 July 2002 .COLOMBIA LE APUESTA A NISCOTA

Las expectativas de hallazgos de reservas de crudo en la región están centradas en un proyecto de exploración que se iniciará próximamente en jurisdicción de Casanare y cuyo radio de acción se extiende hasta Boyacá.
[click to view]

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

[12] El Observatorio ha recibido con indignación informaciones acerca del asesinato de la Sra. Rosa Helena Bernal Pinto, lideresa de la Asociación Campesina de Morcote y de la Provincia de la Libertad, Trabajadores Campesinos Protectores de la Tierra y el Territorio (ASOCAMPROV-LIBERTAD), y colaboradora de la Comisión - Corporación Claretiana de Justicia y Paz Norman Pérez Bello. 21/12/2012. FEDERACIÓN INTERNACIONAL POR LOS DERECHOS HUMANOS. FIDH.
[click to view]

Meta information
Contributor:Dalena Tran, [email protected]
Last update28/12/2021
Conflict ID:5705
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