BOGOTA, April 26 (UPI) -- Colombia is seeing the outlook for its energy sector improve with progress on two fronts -- new oil finds and higher production from existing wells.
Ecopetrol President Javier Gutierrez said the company, the largest integrated hydrocarbons company in the country, would aim to be producing at least 1.45 million barrels per day of oil equivalent by 2013.
Rising oil prices have given fresh incentives to petroleum prospecting worldwide despite warnings that more expensive oil and oil gas could spell further trouble for global economic recovery.
Last year Colombia embarked on an aggressive campaign to attract more investment and industry expertise into its unexplored and under-exploited oil resources.
With economic growth set to continue through this year the government expects domestic oil demand to continue rising and also wants to reduce dependence on refining abroad.
Colombia depends on Mexican Gulf Coast refiners to buy and refine most of its heavy, sulfur-laden crude and it ranks 10th among the exporters of oil to the United States. It shipped an average of 365,000 barrels per day to the United States last year.
Ecopetrol said results of tests on a new oil well in the south of the country showed encouraging assessments.
The 7,371-foot deep Nunda-1 well in the Tello municipality of the department of Huila was first drilled on Jan. 27. Initial tests had a flow of 318 barrels of fluid a day, 71 percent of which was water, corresponding to an average of 92 barrels per day of crude oil, the company said in a news release.
The well was drilled as part of an exploration and exploitation agreement signed between Ecopetrol and the National Hydrocarbons Agency dating to 2006. Ecopetrol has 100 percent participation in the project.
Ecopetrol will begin evaluating the discovery to determine its commercial viability. Company officials quoted in Colombian news media said they were confident about the outcome of the tests.
Colombia already producing a little less than 1 million barrels a day so the goal of producing 1.45 million barrels a day in two years is not overoptimistic, industry analysts said.
Colombian oil production in March reached 884,000 barrels per day, up 15 percent from the same month in 2010.
Ecopetrol and its associates extracted 786,000 barrels per day, while the contracts administered by the National Hydrocarbon Agency ANH exceeded 98,000 barrels per day, Ecopetrol said in a news release. On average Colombia has produced 860,000 barrels of crude oil daily so far in the first quarter of 2011.
"The discovery opens up a new era for Ecopetrol by branching out to new types of exploration activities involving stratigraphic traps (those in which hydrocarbons accumulate due to variations in the deposit environment) in the Valle Superior del Magdalena and helps increase reserve inventories in this area of the country," the company said in a statement.
Ecopetrol, Colombia´s largest integrated oil and natural gas company responsible for 60 percent of total production, is one of the top 40 oil companies in the world and the fourth largest oil company in Latin America.
Ecopetrol is also involved in exploration and production activities in Brazil, Peru and the U.S. Gulf Coast, and owns the main refineries in Colombia. The company also owns most of the network of oil and multiple purpose pipelines in the country, petrochemical plants, and is entering into the biofuels business.