Ecopetrol and Shell Among Winners in Colombian Oil Bidding

Colombia awarded new oil and natural gas blocks today as the fastest-growing major oil producer in Latin America looks to begin offshore exploration and join the global shale boom.

Ecopetrol SA, Colombia’s state-run producer, won 12 blocks and a venture between Andes Energia Argentina SA and Integra Oil & Gas picked up seven, Orlando Cabrales, head of the National Hydrocarbons Agency, told reporters. Exxon Mobil Corp., Royal Dutch Shell Plc and Hocol SA were also among the winners.

Colombia is looking to raise output above 1 million barrels a day by expanding in areas once dominated by guerrilla groups. Offshore exploration and drilling for oil and gas found in shale rock formations probably will start next year, Cabrales said.

Ecopetrol will operate three of the five so-called unconventional blocks alone and partner with Exxon Mobil in the other two, he said. Colombia wants to increase unconventional reserves to 1 billion barrels in the next two decades.

Colombia’s oil production jumped 72 percent since 2007, allowing the nation to surpass Argentina to become the region’s fourth-largest supplier after Brazil, Mexico and Venezuela.

International investment in crude has climbed after military strikes weakened the nation’s largest rebel movement, which is meeting in Oslo with government negotiators for talks aimed at ending an armed conflict in its fifth decade.

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