May 4, 2018 / 2:56 PM / a year ago

Colombia's Ecopetrol boosts output to make up for protest-caused Q1 drop

BOGOTA, May 4 (Reuters) - Ecopetrol, Colombia’s state-run oil company, has accelerated activity at several of its oil fields to make up for a slight output fall in the first quarter, executives said during a call with investors on Friday.

The company’s first-quarter net profit rose to 2.6 trillion pesos ($923.3 million), up 195 percent from the same period in 2017, it said on Thursday.

However, consolidated oil and gas production in the first quarter fell to 701,000 barrels per day because of February protests that led to blocked roads and the temporary closure of some fields.

“To compensate for events in the first quarter, the company has taken a series of measures, including more work at wells and reinforcing activity at the Castillo field with additional perforation equipment,” Rafael Guzman, Ecopetrol’s technical vice president, said on the call.

The company is also moving forward a project at the Apiay field, which had been scheduled for 2019, and water injection work at the Chichimene field.

Some 150 billion pesos ($52.4 million) in investment meant for the first quarter was stymied by the protests, Finance Vice President Maria Fernanda Suarez said.

“During the quarter the public order problems obliged us to move to the second quarter close to 150 billion pesos,” she said.

Ecopetrol plans to invest between $3.5 billion and $4 billion in 2018 as it reboots production and exploration after being battered by the global fall in crude prices.

It has so far restarted perforation at seven fields, Guzman said, and will directly operate 27 derricks during the second half of the year.

$1 = 2,857.85 Colombian pesos Reporting by Nelson Bocanegra and Julia Symmes Cobb; Editing by Dan Grebler

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