Colombia’s Ecopetrol says rebel attacks cut output 893,000 barrels

Colombia has lost 893,000 barrels of oil production, more than a day’s worth of total national output, this year due to rebel attacks on the Caño Limon-Covenas pipeline, state oil company Ecopetrol said on Tuesday.

Some 28 attacks, attributed by the military to the National Liberation Army (ELN), have halted the pipeline for 37 days.

Crude oil production at the Caño Limon field, operated by U.S.-based Occidental Petroleum Corp in northern Colombia, has been suspended since March 6 amid an escalation of rebel attacks on its pipeline.

The suspension of production risks 1,600 jobs, Ecopetrol, which owns the pipeline, said in a statement.

The Caño Limon-Covenas pipeline transports crude from the fields in Arauca province, near the border with Venezuela, to a port in the Caribbean Sea for export. The field produces around 52,000 barrels per day. The 485-mile (780-km) pipeline can carry up to 210,000 barrels per day.

Attacks by the ELN – considered a terrorist group by the United States and European Union – on oil infrastructure have been frequent during the group’s five-decade war with the government.

The attacks, which numbered 43 last year, cause oil spills and environmental damage.

President Juan Manuel Santos and the ELN last month launched formal peace negotiations in Ecuador, but the group has stepped up its attacks since.

The ELN has about 2,000 combatants and opposes the presence of multinational companies in the mining and oil sector, claiming that they seize natural resources without leaving benefits to the country’s population or economy.

The FARC, the biggest rebel group in the South American country, agreed to a peace accord with the government late last year.

(Reporting by Helen Murphy; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)

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