BOGOTA, Aug 10 (Reuters) - The gas flare at Colombia's Cartagena Reficar refinery, which is currently undergoing renovations aimed at doubling its production capacity, was fired up on Monday, as the first tests of the refurbishments begin, the refinery said.
Reficar, owned by state-run oil producer Ecopetrol, said the flare will be the first part of the renovated refinery to come back on line. The flare will remove gas build-up in processing units.
"The lighting of the flare is a milestone with which we begin tests and will start the service units in the following weeks," the refinery said in a statement. "We can then begin processing crude in the fourth quarter of the year."
Reficar will fully restart by March, making Colombia self-sufficient in refined oil products it has had to import in increasing quantities during the facility's refurbishment, Ecopetrol said last week.
The renovations to the country's second-largest refinery, estimated to cost around $6.8 billion and set to supplement production at the inland Barrancabermeja refinery, will more than double the plant's capacity to 165,000 barrels per day.
It will ease at least some of the financial strain for Ecopetrol, Colombia's biggest company, which has been suffering since a plunge in crude oil prices from June 2014. The drop in crude has led to a 38.5 percent decline in net profit in the second quarter to $583 million versus a year ago.
Reporting by Luis Jaime Acosta, writing by Julia Symmes Cobb; Editing by Diane Craft