(Reuters, Julia Symmes Cobb, 31.Oct.2018) — Ecopetrol, Colombia’s state-run oil company, said on Wednesday its third-quarter net profit rose to 2.77 trillion pesos ($866.5 million), up 177 percent from the same period last year, thanks to higher global crude prices and increased output.
The company plans to invest between $3 billion and $3.5 billion during 2018 to boost production and explore for more oil to replenish dwindling reserves, drilling 620 wells and doubling the number of rigs in operation from last year.
Consolidated oil and gas production in the third quarter rose to 724,000 barrels per day (bpd), Ecopetrol said in a regulatory filing. That is the highest figure of the last ten quarters.
Protests in the first quarter closed three fields and lowered production to 701,000 bpd, before it rebounded to 721,000 bpd in the second.
Ecopetrol is targeting output of 725,000 bpd of crude and gas equivalent by the end of 2018, up from 715,000 bpd last year.
Strong performance across the company “has allowed an increase in the production of crude and gas, a reduction in crude imports for our refinery sector and in products for the local market and additionally, allowed us to enjoy the benefits of higher international prices,” Chief Executive Felipe Bayon said in the statement.
The company spent $789 million in investment in the third quarter, the statement said, concentrating on exploration and production, where spending was up 57 percent over the same period in 2017.
It has spent $1.79 billion through September, meaning investment during the fourth quarter will need to be substantive to meet the predicted total spending for the year.
Colombia has struggled to attract investment and maintain oil output as bombings and protests have frequently interrupted operations.
Ecopetrol’s Cano Limon-Covenas pipeline, which can transport up to 210,000 bpd, has been off-line for much of this year because of bombings and illegal taps.
The company has reserves equivalent to about seven years of production, well below the average of nearly 12 years for the world’s top oil and gas companies.
Earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization for July to September increased by 36.7 percent compared with the same quarter in 2017, to 7.99 trillion pesos, Ecopetrol said.
Total sales in the third quarter were up 34.2 percent compared with the same period last year, to 17.87 trillion pesos. ($1 = 3,202.44 Colombian pesos)
(Reporting by Julia Symmes Cobb; editing by Helen Murphy and Rosalba O’Brien)