Pipeline attack shows problems but improvements are clear

A FARC rebel attack on an oil pipeline in the southern province of Putamayo provided a reminder this week of the security problems still faced in Colombia, but such incidents need to be seen in the light of the vast improvements that have been made .

Overall, upstream activity ­remains some of the most intense found anywhere in Latin America, and Colombian output has been rising steadily toward the ­ 1 million barrel per day mark.

Talisman Energy, one of the bigger players in the Canadian pack in the Andean nation, ­reported this week that the Akacais heavy oil discovery in Block 9 is producing “very encouraging” flow rates.

“We are preparing to drill ­several appraisal wells on this discovery,” chief executive John Manzoni said during a conference call.  

Talisman operates on five of the seven blocks in the southern Llanos foothills heavy oil belt.

Talisman is aso drilling the Huron-2 appraisal well on the Niscota block in the Llanos foothills, where state-controlled  Ecopetrol is partner. The appraisal well is the first since a 2009 discovery.

The Alberta company is moving through a transition from technical evaluation contract to exploration licence on Block 6, drilling stratigraphic wells in the process.

Talisman also partners Ecopetrol with a 49% stake in Equion, a joint venture company that took over a bundle of Colombian assets formerly held by BP.

Equion has two wells planned for the second half of this year on a discovery in the Piedemonte area, and a full development plan should be sanctioned next year.Equion is one of the key players in Colombia’s incipient offshore ­exploration push off the Caribbean coast.

The first of two wildcats planned for the gas-prone RC5 permit should be spudded in September 2012, with rig contracting scheduled for the first quarter.

The RC4 area — described as potentially oil-prone by Talisman vice president for Latin America Exploration James Deckelman — will be drilled further down the line.

Colombia has been encouraged in its efforts in the eastern Caribbean by declining output on existing fields, and also by Repsol and Eni’s exciting discovery of up to 16 trillion cubic feet of gas in the Gulf of Venezuela.

Colombia’s wider exploration plans in the Caribbean were ­recently scaled down when President Juan Manuel Santos ­announced a ban on offshore drilling around the San Andres archipelago.

The ban affects two permits, held by Repsol YPF and Colombia’s own Ecopetrol.

Regional environmental ­authorities had called for a ban after opposition by island communities, alarmed by the possibility of environmental damage.

However, Equion has already received the go-ahead for its two Caribbean permits.  

“The approval has just come through,” Ecopetrol vice president of exploration Enrique Velasquez Convers told Upstream from the sidelines of CWC Latin American Oil & Gas in Miami.

Ecopetrol is finding the task more difficult with the Fuerte Norte and Fuerte Sur offshore blocks, where a farm-out opportunity has been the topic of long-running talks with potential partners.

Drilling contractors and well service contractors have also been put on hold pending environmental permits.

On the Tayrona block, Brazil’s Petrobras, Ecopetrol and Repsol soon aim to begin their evaluation of fresh 3D seismic data shot in the Guajira basin.

The partners acquired new seismic with a crew from CGG­Veritas’ survey vessel Viking 1, and will study the data before deciding on drilling locations.

A well could be spudded in 2013, following up the unsuccessful Araza-1 wildcat that led to the withdrawal of ExxonMobil, initially confounding partners.

Repsol YPF later acquired a 30% stake in the project.

Among the other companies ­reporting progress elsewhere in Colombia’s oil sector this week were Canacol Energy, moving to the half-way point in a four-well development programme on the Llanos basin’s Rancho Hermoso field, currently producing 15,000 barrels per day.

Joining them was fellow Canadian PetroMagdalena, which reported a natural flow of 1114 barrels per day of 38.4 degrees API light oil from the Copa A Sur-1 well on the Cubiro Block, also in the Llanos basin.


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