Last update:

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.

See more
Basic Data
Name of conflict:No Fracking in the Guaraní Aquifer in Uruguay
State or province:Paysandú
Location of conflict:Paysandú
Accuracy of locationHIGH (Local level)
Source of Conflict
Type of conflict. 1st level:Fossil Fuels and Climate Justice/Energy
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Water access rights and entitlements
Shale gas fracking
Specific commodities:Electricity
Natural Gas
Crude oil
Project Details and Actors
Project details

This 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.

See more
Project area:250
Level of Investment for the conflictive project2,500,000
Type of populationSemi-urban
Affected Population:2.000
Start of the conflict:2012
Company names or state enterprises:Schuepbach Energy Uruguay (SRL) from United States of America - owner
Petrel Energy from Australia - owner
Schlumberger from United States of America
Relevant government actors:Comisión 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 organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Coordinadora 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”.
Conflict & Mobilization
IntensityMEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
Reaction stagePREVENTIVE resistance (precautionary phase)
Groups mobilizing:Local ejos
Local scientists/professionals
Citizen assemblies (mostly urban)
Forms of mobilization:Blockades
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
Other Environmental impactsPotential: Risk of earthquakes;
Health ImpactsPotential: Exposure to unknown or uncertain complex risks (radiation, etc…)
Socio-economical ImpactsPotential: Displacement, Loss of livelihood, Militarization and increased police presence, Violations of human rights, Loss of landscape/sense of place
Project StatusProposed (exploration phase)
Conflict outcome / response:New legislation
Strengthening of participation
Under negotiation
Application of existing regulations
Proposal and development of alternatives:Beyond 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 an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:Not Sure
Briefly explain: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 & Materials
References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

Strategic Action Program(SAP) for Guarani Aquifer
[click to view]

Ante las exploraciones petroleras: Salteños se movilizarán en defensa del Acuífero Guaraní
[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]

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

Petrel Energy increases stake in Uruguay & Spain in deal with Schuepbach Energy
[click to view]

Entre Ríos se convirtió en la primera provincia en prohibir el fracking
[click to view]

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

Denuncian que perforarán el Acuífero Guaraní en Uruguay y afectará a Entre Ríos
[click to view]

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

Tacuarembó por el Medio Ambiente
[click to view]

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

Other comments:The 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
Contributor:ENVJustice Project
Last update18/08/2019
Conflict ID:2959
Legal notice / Aviso legal
We use cookies for statistical purposes and to improve our services. By clicking "Accept cookies" you consent to place cookies when visiting the website. For more information, and to find out how to change the configuration of cookies, please read our cookie policy. Utilizamos cookies para realizar el análisis de la navegación de los usuarios y mejorar nuestros servicios. Al pulsar "Accept cookies" consiente dichas cookies. Puede obtener más información, o bien conocer cómo cambiar la configuración, pulsando en más información.