BOGOTA, May 2 (Reuters) - Colombian oil company Ecopetrol expects to repair the damaged Cano Limon-Covenas pipeline in the next five days, a company executive said on Friday, enabling it to pump 800,000 barrels of crude accumulated during its month-long shut down.
The 780-km (485 mile) pipeline has been offline since a bomb attack by rebels on March 25 but repairs will now proceed after the indigenous U‘wa community that blocked engineers’ access agreed with the government on Thursday to end their protest.
“Today Ecopetrol is entering to repair the pipeline and we hope in five days we will be pumping,” said Thomas Rueda, vice-president of finance at Cenit, the Ecopetrol subsidiary that manages its pipelines, during a conference call with analysts.
Ecopetrol Chief Executive Officer Javier Gutierrez said stocks of oil built up during the pipeline’s closure would begin to be pumped as soon as it reopened. The company had been forced to declare force majeure on at least 25 delivery contracts.
“At the moment we have around 800,000 barrels ready in storage that could not be transported in reserve tanks, that we’ll quickly begin to move as soon as the pipeline is back in operation,” he said.
Last year, leftist guerrillas who have been fighting the government for five decades began to intensify their attacks on energy infrastructure, mostly pipelines, with 259 attacks in 2013.
Cenit’s Rueda said there had been 33 attacks on Ecopetrol infrastructure in the first three months of the year whose cumulative effect equated to a cut in output of around 7,200 barrels per day in that period.
But the impact of the pipeline closure was more severe, denting the Andean nation’s average daily crude output, typical around 1 million barrels, by about 72,000 barrels, or about 7 percent, according to Ecopetrol data.
Colombia’s government has been holding peace talks with the main rebel group, the FARC or Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, since late 2012 even as combat between the two sides continues.
The U‘wa agreed to end their blockade during a meeting with the energy minister, interior minister and Ecopetrol’s Gutierrez on Thursday, after the government agreed to re-assess a gas project near their territory which they oppose. (Reporting by Peter Murphy and Nelson Bocanegra; Editing by David Gregorio)