Caño Limón–Coveñas Oil Pipeline
|This article is part of the Global Fossil Infrastructure Tracker, a project of Global Energy Monitor.|
Caño Limón–Coveñas Oil Pipeline, known locally as Oleoducto Caño Limón–Coveñas is an oil pipeline in Colombia.
The pipeline runs from Arauca to Covenas, Colombia.
- Operator: Ecopetrol, Occidental Petroleum
- Current capacity: 210,000 barrels per day
- Length: 773.94 kilometers / 480.9 miles
- Oil source: Cano Limon Oil Field, Colombia
- Status: Operating
- Start Year: 1986
Built in 1986 by a subsidiary of the American firm Occidental Petroleum Company, OxyCol, the 771km Caño Limón-Coveñas pipeline has been operated by Ecopetrol since 2011 and has a 210,000b/d operating capacity. Over 30 years, the pipeline has transported over 1.5 billion barrels of oil. The line runs from Vereda La Ossa, Arauca, at the Colombia-Venezuela border to Colombia's Caribbean port of Coveñas. The pipeline runs through 33 municipalities in the Colombian departments of Arauca, Boyacá, Norte de Santander, Cesar, Magdalena, Sucre, and Bolivar. The pipeline route also contains five pumping stations.
The pipeline has sustained hundreds of attacks during the decades-long struggle between the Colombian government and right-wing paramilitary groups on one side, and guerrilla militants from organizations such as Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and National Liberation Army (ELN) on the other. The intensity of the political and military confrontations increased dramatically in the 90s and have occurred throughout the 2000's  up to the present time in 2020.
Attacks, Opposition, and Oil Spills
The FARC and ELN have targeted energy production and transportation in Colombia in their struggle with the Colombian government over the last six decades. The guerrilla forces have targeted the oil pipelines in part to protest the exploitation of Colombian resources by foreign companies, while also hurting the economy as one of its key military strategies. The attacks mostly occur in the first 110 miles of the pipeline which traverses through extremely volatile territory due to the heavy presence of rebel groups. In its first year of operation in 1986, the pipeline underwent an attack shortly after its inauguration. It would be the first of 18 attacks that year, and foreshadowed the numerous attacks which would follow in the upcoming decades. By 2003, the pipeline had been attacked over 900 times. The Caño Limón–Coveñas Oil Pipeline itself was attacked 170 times in 2001, 41 times in in 2002, 34 in 2003, and 17 times in 2004. The attacks resulted in shutdowns and losses $500 million in oil revenues and royalties. By 2015, the pipeline would have been hit 1,317 times, an average of one per week.
According to some estimates, these attacks amidst the civil war have resulted in over 3 million barrels of oil being spilled, contaminating soil and countless waterways. Colombia's state oil company, Ecopetrol, as much as 66 million gallons of oil, equivalent to ~1.5 million barrels of oil, have spilled from the pipeline since 2000 alone. Since 1986, attacks against the pipeline have left 751 victims over the last 17 years, including 167 deaths. Since 1986 the pipeline has been out of service 3,800 days, or 10.4 years, 30 percent of its life.
Since 2012, a number of bombs have been set off, which have left the line on standby on several occasions. Amylkar Acosta, Colombia's energy and mines minister, revealed in an interview that an average of 35,000b/d was not exported during 2013 because of halted operations stemming from rebel group the ELN's (Ejército de Liberación Nacional) attacks. Beyond the impact on export volumes, the attacks have led to spills that have polluted drinking water.
As of 2017, there have been peace agreements made with the FARC while talks of peace with the ELN are ongoing. However, attacks on the pipeline continued in 2017. By April 2017, 31 attacks on the pipeline were recorded and lead to shutdowns amounting to 46 days in total. In April 2017, the pipeline was bombed, leading to a spill which threatened the nearby Cimitarra stream which feeds into the waterways supplying 3,500 locals with drinking water. In June 2017, another attack caused a temporary shutdown.In August 2017, another attack ensued on the pipeline. The attack took place in rural El Carmen municipality in Norte de Santander province, near the border with Venezuela, the sources said. The bombing caused a crude spillage into a nearby river. The pipeline was attacked more than 80 times in 2018 and as a result was kept offline for most of the year. In February 2019 an attack near Teorama in the Norte de Santander province created an environmental emergency along the Catatumbo river.
In 2019 overall, there were 42 attacks on the pipeline. Another 8 attacks were reported in the first six weeks of 2020, including a February attack involving explosives that caused a fire and contaminated two rivers and a creek near Toledo (Norte de Santander department). Regular attacks on the pipeline continued through June 2020, with repairs to the pipeline made more difficult by the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.
Saldana V. Occidental Petroleum
During the period of the Bush administration, American foreign policy shifted in the country of Colombia. Instead of focusing on the so-called war on drugs, the Bush administration focused its attention on the security of Colombia's energy resources. The Caño Limón–Coveñas Oil Pipeline was a focal point for the new policy, as special forces were sent to the country starting in 2002 to train and assist the Colombian government in protecting the pipeline from insurgents, setting the stage of the court case. Since fiscal year 2002, the United States has provided about $99 million in equipment and training to the Colombian Army to minimize terrorist attacks along the first 110 miles of the Cano Limon-Covenas oil pipeline, mostly in the Arauca department. U.S. Special Forces have provided training and equipment to about 1,600 Colombian Army soldiers. They have supplied helicopters to the anti-insurgent efforts of the Colombian government. The aid package would set the context for the lawsuit against the Occidental Petroleum. as the Colombian countryside would witness an increase in intensive militarization.
In 2011, family members of three union members killed by the Colombian National Army’s (“CNA”) 18th Brigade brought the lawsuit to Los Angeles, California, where the Occidental Petroleum has its headquarters. The Plaintiffs contended that the company should be held liable for the 18th brigade's actions under the Alien Tort Statute, and the rest under California tort law. The plaintiffs argued that the Occidental Petroleum company was in part funding the 18th brigade to guard its pipeline interests via its Colombian subsidiary, Occidental de Colombia, Inc. (“OxyCol”). In addition to the military aid given by the United States, Ecopetrol agreed to provide $6.3 million from its joint account with OxyCol which would go to the 18th brigade.
However, Judge Trott from the United States of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled that "the complaint raised nonjusticiable political questions, thus depriving the courts of jurisdiction to entertain it." The district court’s dismissal of the complaint was pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(1) on the ground that it raised nonjusticiable political questions. It was concluded that plaintiffs’ claims "were inextricably bound to the inherently political question of the propriety of the United States’ decision to provide $99 million worth of training to the 18th Brigade at the same time and for the same purpose as Occidental allegedly providing $6.3 million."
Articles and resources
- Caño Limón–Coveñas Oil Pipeline, Wikipedia, accessed September 2017
- "Oleoducto colombiano Caño Limón-Coveñas suspende bombeo por ataque explosivo". Reuters. February 12, 2020.
- "Ecopetrol unit condemns attacks against oil pipelines in Colombia". Reuters. May 5, 2020.
- "INFORME DE AUDITORIA DE CUMPLIMIENTO: GESTIÓN DEL TRANSPORTE DE HIDROCARBUROS EN COLOMBIA". Contraloría General de la República. December 2017.
- Caño Limón-Coveñas Pipeline, BNamericas, accessed October 2017
- Loren Moss, Caño Limon Covenas Oil Pipeline Achieves 30 Year Operational Milestone, Finance Colombia, December 15, 2015
- Connie Veillette, Plan Colombia: A Progress Report, CRS Report for Congress, June 22, 2005
- "Cenit Activates Contingency Plans Due To Series of Pipeline Attacks This Week". Finance Colombia. June 8, 2020.
- SALDANA V. OCCIDENTAL PETROLEUM, UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE NINTH CIRCUIT, December 15, 2014
- Alfonso Cuéllar, Oil and Peace in Colombia:Industry Challenges in the Post-War Period, Wilson Center, January 2016
- Nicole Elana Karsin, Series of blasts shatters short-lived Colombian peace / Violence linked to a backlash over oil pipeline, SF Gate, February 12, 2003
- Colombia Pipeline, Living on Earth, accessed October 2017
- Colombia halts Cano-Limon pipeline after rebel attack, Reuters, August 28,2017
- Colombia: Peace talks with ELN rebel group begin, BBC, February 8, 2017
- Colombia's Ecopetrol halts Cano Limon pipeline after attack, CNBC, April 27, 2017
- Attack on Caño Limón-Coveñas Pipeline Causes Oil Spill and ‘Environmental Emergency’ in Norte de Santander, Says Ecopetrol, Finance Colombia, April 27, 2017
- Carl Surran, Bomb attack halts Colombia’s Cano Limon crude oil pipeline, Seeking Alpha, June 21, 2017
- ‘ELN attack’ on oil pipeline causes environmental disaster in northeast Colombia, Columbia Reports, Feb. 15, 2019
- Juan Forero, New Role for U.S. in Colombia: Protecting a Vital Oil Pipeline, New York Times, October 4, 2002
- Efforts to Secure Colombia's Cano Limon-Covenas Oil Pipeline Have Reduced Attacks, but Challenges Remain, U.S. Government Accountability Office, October 6, 2005