Chinese-owned oil company Emerald Energy said Wednesday it was suspending production in a southern Colombian region with a strong FARC presence where four Chinese contractors were kidnapped in June.
Emerald Energy Plc spokesman Carlos Bolanos said without elaboration that the suspension owed to “security problems.” Responding to emailed questions, he did not say when production might resume.
The leftist Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, abducted the contractors on June 8 as they were on their way to the field in the Caqueta state municipality of Los Pozos. Bolanos said authorities had reported nothing new about the four since their abduction.
The London-based company, a subsidiary of China’s Sinochem Group, said its other operations in Colombia are not involved.
The daily production of the affected 12-well field is 600 barrels, said Energy Minister Mauricio Cardenas, less than one-tenth of the company’s total output in Colombia.
Cardenas told reporters that Emerald Energy had no plans to leave Colombia, as some local media reports had suggested.
He insisted the state would offer it protection.
“The Colombian state is fully capable of offering security to each and every company operating in the sector,” Cardenas said.
Colombia’s total production is about 900,000 barrels a day, split between state-owned Ecopetrol and dozens of foreign companies. And while its been growing recently amid improved security, rebel activity has been on the rise in several regions, including Caqueta.
Los Pozos is in a traditional FARC stronghold and was the venue for failed 1998-2002 peace talks the rebels held with Colombia’s government.
Two months after the contractors’ kidnapping, three oil trucks contracted by Emerald were set on fire in the region and three more sabotaged. Authorities blamed the FARC.
In the eastern state of Vichada, 20 Colombian employees of the Canadian oil company Talisman were seized by the FARC then released several hours later because soldiers were in hot pursuit, military officials said.
A third oil company, Toronto-based Pacific Rubiales Energy, has been plagued by labour unrest apparently unrelated to the troubles of the other two companies and has had to twice suspend operations at Colombia’s biggest oil field.
President Juan Manuel Santos‘ government has said it hopes to surpass 1 million barrels a day in oil production by year’s end.
The president of Colombia’s Oil Association, Alejandro Martinez, which represents 55 mostly foreign-owned private companies, said the suspension by Emerald Energy was “a bad sign.”
“There have been some terrorist acts against the sector recently, during this year,” he told The Associated Press. “It’s something that has created concern in the national government.”