Ecopetrol ‘loses 11,000 bpd’ from attacks

by on July 24, 2012 8:52 pm BST

Colombia, Latin America’s number-four oil producer,
is ramping up petroleum output, hoping to hit 1 million bpd this year. But a
series of attacks on oil installations have prevented the country from reaching
its goal, Reuters reported.

There were 67 attacks on pipelines in the first half
of the year, more than three times the number in the same period last year,
according to Defence Ministry data.

Ecopetrol President Javier Gutierrez told Reuters in
the coastal city of Cartagena that the company lost 10,700 bpd on average
between January and June due to bombings.

He said, however, that increased military protection
recently meant: “There has been an improvement.”

The Andean country is sending thousands of more
soldiers to protect oil infrastructure, which has been increasingly targeted by
Marxist guerrillas such as the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, known as
the Farc.

More than a decade-long offensive by US-backed troops
has squeezed the fund-raising of the Farc, pushing them deeper into
inhospitable jungle and making it harder to raise cash from the drugs trade.

Now, the Farc has switched from attacking the oil and
mining industries for mostly political gain and instead hits corporate
installations to sow fear and bring in money from extortion, according to the
energy ministry.

Some experts, though, say that rebels are targeting
oil lines and remote exploration areas to bog down government troops in static
positions and therefore give guerrillas space to move.

At the weekend, Farc insurgents blew up a section of
the 220,000-barrel-per-day-capacity Cano Limon-Covenas oil pipeline, Colombia’s
second most important line. Earlier this month, rebels killed five oil
contractors in the south.

Increased attacks caused national oil production to
fall in May and June. Last month output dropped 0.2% from May to an average of
934,000 bpd.