Colombia’s state-run oil company Ecopetrol will begin off-shore oil exploration in the Caribbean for the first time in its history, the government announced.
The announcement of the National Hydrocarbon Agency came with a range of expansion plans for 2017 for the company that is seeking to improve its competitiveness in times of low oil prices.
“Those who have lived through difficult times and have seen many companies suffer, here and in the rest of the world, we look today with hope for the future ,” Ecopetrol President Juan Carlos Echeverry reportedly said at an oil and gas summit organized by the Colombian Chamber of Petroleum Services (Campetrol).
The oil company made staggering losses of $1.2 billion in 2015, but aims to expand in 2017 both on and offshore in a bid to get the company back on track with plans to increase production levels by 25,000 barrels per day next year.
The offshore exploration is supposed to restore the profitability of the state-run company, which will have to do this alone as foreign investment in oil is low when oil prices are low.
“It is the first time that Ecopetrol will drill an offshore well without a partner,” a company spokesmen told newspaper El Espectador.
For exploration projects in 2017, Ecopetrol announced an overall investment of $652 million, of which $295 million are for offshore work.
“We’re putting a priority on stabilizing production… (and) we’ll be very aggressive in drilling offshore next year,” Echeverry said earlier this month.
The company expects that drilling will take place at 15 sites in 2017, five of which will be offshore confirming that drilling will begin at the Molusco “towards the third quarter of 2017.”
Onshore, Ecopetrol is betting on the government’s peace agreement with left-wing rebels the FARC to open areas in southern Colombia that have traditionally been off-limits because of the guerrillas’ rule.
Echeverry said the company is particularly optimistic in the medium to long term about geological potential in the Catatumbo basin in Norte de Santander province, Llanos basin areas in northern Arauca province, and territory in the Putumayo-Caguan basin, where he believes the company “could increase production two-to-three fold.”
By the end of 2016, Ecopetrol expects to finish with a production of 715,000 barrels per day. Since the Caño Limon field was closed for 45 days, the average production fell substantially.
This year, the company drilled 150 wells with partners; by 2017 the goal is 500.