Colombia Targets Pacific Coast Oil Exports Amid U.S. Shale Boom

Colombia is planning to build a new pipeline to export oil via its Pacific coast to Asia, as increased production from U.S. shale fields forces South America’s third-biggest crude producer to seek new markets.

“There’s a re-figuration of the international energy market, especially with what is happening in the U.S.,” Colombia Mines and Energy Minister Amylkar Acosta said yesterday in an interview in his Bogota office. “Colombia is almost the only country in Latin America where oil exports to the U.S. haven’t declined. But it is foreseeable that it will happen in the future.”

China and India represent important growth markets, with Colombia planing to connect its Cano Limon pipeline with Venezuela’s Guafita in the short term, and build a separate pipeline to the Pacific coast in the medium to long term, Acosta said. The route of the new pipeline is being studied.

The majority of Colombian oil is currently exported through the Caribbean port of Covenas, according to the website of Ecopetrol SA.

“From a security perspective, Colombia can’t keep relying on a single port for oil exports,” Acosta said. “We must have alternatives, and this would be via the Pacific.”

Plans announced in October for a joint venture between Ecopetrol and Petroleos de Venezuela SA, the state-owned oil companies of Colombia and Venezuela, to develop mature fields in Venezuela will go ahead, helping Ecopetrol increase reserves using its expertise in secondary oil recovery, Acosta said.

“The great worry we have today is the need to increase reserves, because those that we have are precarious,” Acosta said. “What Colombia is doing with Venezuela is similar to previous actions abroad.”

Rubiales Field

Separately, Acosta said Ecopetrol has the expertise to run the Rubiales field in Colombia’s Llanos plains from mid-2016 onwards when the license of current operator Pacific Rubiales Energy Corp. is set to expire.

Pacific has requested a new license and expects the board of Ecopetrol to approve its offer to continue operating the Rubiales field, Pacific CEO Ronald Pantin said in an August interview. The Rubiales field currently accounts for 65 percent of Pacific’s net production, according to an October presentation.

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