February 23, 2017 / 3:14 PM / a year ago

Ecopetrol extends force majeure on Vasconia crude to March exports -trade

Feb 23 (Reuters) - A force majeure declared by Colombian state-run oil company Ecopetrol SA on some shipments of Vasconia crude has been extended to March deliveries, affecting at least seven cargoes of the medium grade, traders said on Thursday.

Colombia’s second largest oil pipeline, the Cano Limon-Covenas, has been attacked by rebels more than a dozen times this year compared with 43 attacks for all of 2016 according to official figures, impacting exports of Vasconia.

Ecopetrol declared force majeure in late January on up to five shipments for February delivery, according to traders who buy and sell that grade. After the line was halted two more times, the decision was extended to cargoes planned for March delivery.

The most recent incident occurred last week, when pumping operations were halted due to a bomb attack by rebels. Ecopetrol said at the time production and exports had not been interrupted.

The company did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The 485-mile (780-km) pipeline can transport up to 210,000 barrels per day of crude from oil fields operated by U.S.-based Occidental Petroleum Corp to the Caribbean port of Covenas.

An alternative pipeline, the Oleoducto Central (Ocensa), and trucks are often used to transport Vasconia crude when the Cano Limon-Covenas line is out of service.

But when many consecutive attacks occur or the pipeline is interrupted for a long period of time, exporters of Vasconia including Ecopetrol and Occidental, declare force majeure on affected shipments as a means to keep exports flowing to as many customers as possible.

A declining number of tankers willing to move to Caribbean waters for orders due to smaller offers of Venezuelan and Colombian grades for export also has recently caused shipment delays to load Vasconia and other crudes, one of the sources said.

Exports of Vasconia from Covenas terminal in Colombia have declined so far in February to some 296,000 bpd versus 306,000 bpd in January, according to Thomson Reuters Trade Flows data. (Reporting by Florence Tan in Singapore and Marianna Parraga in Houston; editing by Gary McWilliams and Marguerita Choy)

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