Civil unrest and road blockades in Colombia have forced Toronto-listed Frontera Energy to shut in heavy oil production from its operations at Block CPE-6 in the eastern Llanos basin.

“Due to road blockades in the municipality of Puerto Gaitan,Colombia, which have restricted the company's ability to transport its production by truck and deliver other essential operational supplies and support to its facilities, the company has reached its on-site storage capacity and has temporarily shut-in approximately 3600 (barrels of oil equivalent per day) of production at its CPE-6 operations,” Frontera said.


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Frontera’s production in Colombia has this year averaged about 39,000 boepd.

The company said it would stick to its production guidance averaging between 40,500 and 42,500 boepd for the year, as it expects production volumes to increase in the second half of the year.

“The company is working with all levels of government and communities to understand and address local concerns and to resolve the blockades as quickly as possible,” Frontera stated.

Frontera currently has five onshore rigs active in Colombia, and a business plan, which earmarks upstream investments of between $220 million and $240 million in 2021.

Apart from CP-06, the main producing assets are the Quifa, Coralillo and La Creciente fields.

Frontera is also developing the La Belleza find on Block VIM-1 under a partnership with fellow Canadian outfit Parex Resources.

Simmering unrest

Colombia has been suffering from waves of protests and civil unrest since April, when the right-wing administration of President Ivan Duque tried to pass a tax reform package.

The reform bill was withdrawn on 2 May, when finance minister Alberto Carrasquilla resigned.

But anger over poverty and corruption — especially among job-starved younger Colombians — has fuelled continued protests and riots since then, leading to around 20 deaths and hundreds of injuries.

Roadblocks erected by the protesters have led to shortages of food, medicine and vaccines in some parts of the county at a time when Colombia is experiencing a third wave of Covid-19.

Duque was elected in 2018, largely on a public security ticket, and he was a critic of the terms of the peace deal agreed with the Farc, a Marxist guerrilla group, by his predecessor, Juan Manuel Santos.

Deteriorating security

But security has been deteriorating in Colombia as splinter groups from left wing guerrilla movements and right-wing paramilitary groups become more enmeshed in organised crime, especially drug trafficking.

Some security analysts claim that such groups have been fanning the flames of civil unrest for their own purposes.

Duque’s administration has responded to the crisis by offering financial support for poorer student to get through their higher education and has promised subsidies for job-starter wages but such moves have not yet taken the heat out of the protests.

Colombia’s budget deficit and national debt has also been growing and reviving oil sector investments are one way to tackle these problems.

Colombia is currently promoting new licensing rounds, including a major push to generate new interest in Llanos basin and Pacific offshore acreage.