Colombia’s state energy company Ecopetrol is losing oil production at the rate of 26,000 barrels daily because of protests that forced the company to partially suspend production at the La Cira Infantas field. The protests were prompted by a change in work rules following the passing of a decree banning oil companies from using illegal third parties to hire oilfield workers.
Apparently, the change in the rules sparked disgruntlement among some workers, and they organized road blockades, preventing other Ecopetrol employees from getting to their workplaces. There have also been acts of vandalism, including the opening of several drill rig valves that spilled several hundred barrels of oil.
This is not the first protest of this kind: in fact, over the last few years, shut-ins and blockades have contributed significantly to Ecopetrol’s production decline. As of the first quarter of 2017, the company produced an average 712,000 bpd, with the La Cira Infantas field accounting for 22,500 bpd. It is the only Ecopetrol field where production is growing, Platts notes, by 17 percent over the first three months of this year and set for further growth as oil recovery methods improve.
Earlier this month, Colombia’s mineral resources ministry warned that after a decline of 16.8 percent in 2016, the country’s crude oil reserves stand at 1.66 billion barrels. This is only sufficient for 5.1 years of production.
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Last year, thanks to the combined effect of low oil prices and militant attacks, Colombia’s production fell to 885,000 bpd, from over 1 million bpd in the previous year. Investments in production growth were also down, and some wells were shuttered as they became uneconomical in the new price environment.
In June 2016, the head of the country’s oil industry association warned that Colombia’s oil industry needed investments to the tune of US$70 billion over the next decade in order to just survive. Now protests caused by the new labor ministry decree are adding to the industry’s woes, extending the challenges it has to deal with in a still not-too-favorable price environment.
By Irina Slav for Oilprice.com
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Irina is a writer for the U.S.-based Divergente LLC consulting firm with over a decade of experience writing on the oil and gas industry.