BOGOTA._ The global oil price crisis has opened an era of profound reflection on projections for the sector in Colombia, in light of the fact that depleting hydrocarbon reserves form part of the present scenario.

The Andean nation is -- after Venezuela, Mexico and Brazil -- the fourth largest Latin American oil producer. It contributes 1.3 percent of all fuel oil to global markets.

Ecopetrol, the leading national oil producing entity and the Ministry for Mines and Energy, consider that if exploration and prospecting works do not start promptly, at present rates of production the nation‘s existing oil reserves will be depleted in 6.4 years.

The global oil price crisis has opened an era of profound reflection on projections for the sector in Colombia, in light of the fact that depleting hydrocarbon reserves form part of the present scenario.Domestic production had been forecasted since last year at one million barrels per day, but the world price crisis facing fossil fuel and the consequent supply surplus have meant that this target could not be reached in 2014 and will not be attained in 2015 either.

The country‘s reserves presently stand at 2.308 billion barrels, having dropped at the end of last year by 5.6 percent since the end of 2013.

The nation is caught up in a vicious circle, because the international low cost of Colombian heavy crude oil and its effects should, according to Ecopetrol and the National Development Plan in effect until 2018, reduce prospective investments.

However, experts believe that with greater incentives, particularly for increased non-conventional -- principally deep water -- deposit exploration, the energy sector could turn the present state of affairs around.

For Francisco Jose Lloreda, executive president of the Colombian Oil Association (ACP for its Spanish acronym), the country could triple its present reserves within 15 years, thus averting fiscal disaster for the national economy.

In the opinion of the ACP chief, there is an estimated potential of 3 billion barrels of non-conventional reserves, which surpasses present Colombian reserves.

Lloreda commented that over the coming 10 to 15 years these could lead to a possible production above the current one million barrel per day target.

He confirmed that within four years the country must work on the activation of 13-20 exploratory wells, utilizing the controversial hydraulic stimulation technique, more commonly known as fracking.

In the middle of an unpromising panorama emerging from this production model and Ecopetrol‘s ups and downs caused by changes in both management and strategy -- in addition to internal corruption scandals -- , there has been some better news arising from a recent discovery in La Guajira, close to Lake Maracaibo.

The Caribbean deep water gas field, discovered by a joint Petrobras, Repsol, and Ecopetrol venture, is rated as very promising as it indicates the presence of the natural gas equivalent to some 264 million barrels of oil.

According to industry experts, hydrocarbon production development is strategic, as it accounts for 21 percent of current national income. It also has the potential to triple the contributions that may result from recent fiscal reforms adopted by Congress and brought into effect by the government.

Given the present outlook, APC specialists consider that if exploration is not invigorated and prioritized in the light of the depleting current reserves, Colombia might have to import crude oil within four or five years while the country waits to exploit new deposits; a wait that could last up to nine years.

Share on FB Share on TT