Colombia expects higher average oil production in 2013
By Carlos Vargas CARTAGENA, Colombia, Feb 7 (Reuters) - Colombian oil output should average around 1.1 million barrels per day (bpd) in 2013, the energy minister told a conference on Thursday, rising about 16.5 percent from 2012. Latin America's fourth-largest oil producer has ramped up crude production in the last decade amid improved security, fiscal terms and regulation, but producers have struggled recently with a rise in attacks and delays in permits. "We expect that at the end of 2013, average daily production will reach 1.1 million barrels of oil," Energy and Mining Minister Federico Renjifo said in the coastal city of Cartagena. Colombia had an average output of 944,000 bpd in 2012. The goal this year is about 100,000 bpd higher than the average production in January of 1.01 million bpd. The government has said it is comfortable with its current reserves through 2020, but the hunt is on to find large new reserves to sustain the increase in output. "We are trying to make the ratio of 6.8 years of oil reserves increase ... more so since having passed 1 million barrels of oil per day, we must better reserve capacity," Renjifo said. Squeezing more out of traditional oil areas such as central Meta province has increased near-term production growth. Easing security concerns have allowed greater exploitation of heavy crude areas in addition to incremental production increases at existing fields. The Andean country struggled to hit 1 million bpd last year after a series of rebel attacks on oil infrastructure and delays in environmental licenses for some key fields. Last month, Colombia's FARC rebels kidnapped three oil contractors who were freed a day later. Violence, however, is still a far cry from what it was at the height of the war in the 1990s and early 2000s when rebels took hostages almost at will and attacked military bases. Peace talks in Cuba between the FARC, Colombia's largest and oldest guerrilla group, and the government over the last three months could provide a much-welcome relief to the oil sector which has been considered a legitimate target by rebels.
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