The COVID-19 pandemic and ensuing industry downturn have raised questions about the wisdom of investing in traditional oil and gas resources. More recent tensions between Ukraine and Russia and energy security concerns have caused some people to think again.
For Colombia’s National Hydrocarbon Agency and national oil company Ecopetrol, now is the perfect time to seek opportunities in a country providing diverse geological potential, a prepared workforce and contractual stability.
They believe that Colombia is that country, and they are prepared to make their case as principal sponsors and hosts of AAPG’s International Conference and Exhibition taking place in Cartagena April 19-22.
ANH President Armando Zamora and Ecopetrol Group CEO Felipe Bayón will speak in multiple conference sessions, and they plan to hold meetings with regional and global operators during their trip to Cartagena.
A Strategic Investment
For Andrés Felipe Bitar, ANH vice president of promotion and area assignments, sponsoring AAPG ICE is a good business decision.
“ICE gathers the most important leaders of the sector and contains a high technical quality program,” he said. “Moreover, it is organized by AAPG, an association characterized for being a pillar of the world scientific community promoting the science of geology and fostering the spirit of scientific research.”
Bitar said the ANH has several goals for its participation at the conference.
“ANH expects to be recognized as a modern, efficient and dynamic entity that reaffirms Colombia’s recognition in the region as one of the most attractive countries for investment in the hydrocarbons sector because its favorable contractual conditions, attractive fiscal framework, high geological prospectivity and privileged geographic location,” he said.
Benefits for Ecopetrol
For Elsa Jaimes, vice president of exploration at Ecopetrol and vice chair of the organizing committee, the decision to sponsor the conference was a “no brainer” for Colombia’s national oil company.
“AAPG ICE is one of the most important industry gatherings of the year, so it would be unthinkable for Ecopetrol, Colombia’s largest operator and producer, to not have a leading role in such a prestigious event,” she said.
“AAPG conferences attract the best and the brightest in our industry, as attested by the quality of the papers that are presented. Supporting these events allows Ecopetrol to measure ourselves against what our competitors are doing, not only in Colombia but elsewhere, and to see the different industry trends and where they are going. It is also a great opportunity to catch up with new developments and technologies that are in use and to assess the benefits through the experience of other companies,” she said.
Highlighting Opportunities in Colombia
Bitar said ANH looks forward to meeting with regional and global operators and showing them the exploration potential in Caribbean basins.
“At the moment Colombia has reserves of 1,816 million barrels of crude oil and 2,949 giga cubic feet of gas, equivalent to 6.3 years of self-sufficiency in crude oil and 7.7 years for gas, assuming the same levels of consumption are maintained and no new reserves are added,” he said.
Bitar said the country offers potential both for oil and natural gas.
The greatest opportunities for crude oil continue to be found in the Llanos Basin and Middle Magdalena Valley, which holds the potential for unconventional resources development.
“In the case of gas, the country has an enormous potential to incorporate new offshore reserves and to develop unconventional resources if pilot projects are successful. This is in addition to the potential already identified in the naturally fractured reservoirs of the Middle Magdalena Valley and Cesar-Rancheria Basins,” he said.
Jaimes said ICE provides a platform for Ecopetrol to showcase a variety of exploration projects.
“If we look at the Caribbean offshore, so far, we have identified some gas prone areas, which we believe have substantial resource potential,” she said.
In late March 2022, Ecopetrol’s partner Shell spud an appraisal well on the Gorgon structure, in the Southern Colombian Caribbean. The companies hope the results will represent a step forward for a commercial venture.
This month Petrobras and Ecopetrol, plans to spud the Uchuva well 80 kilometers west of the Chuchupa gas field operated by Chevron off the La Guajira peninsula in Northeast Colombia. If successful, the well will open a new exploration fairway in the offshore La Guajira Region.
“The Caribbean offshore basin remains at large unexplored and is considered as frontier exploration. We believe that there are still interesting opportunities awaiting to be identified,” Jaimes said.
In addition to offshore activity, Ecopetrol also plans to share opportunities for both conventional and unconventional resource development onshore.
“The Andean fold-belt of the Llanos basin remains a highly prospective fairway. Ecopetrol is actively exploring this region, and we have identified sizeable opportunities. The challenge is to improve seismic imaging and have a strong G and G team with experience in these terranes,” she said.
“This year Ecopetrol and ExxonMobil will drill a couple of pilot holes to prove the non-conventional play in the Middle Magdalena Valley basin. Given the resource assessment of this play, we can foresee a boost of activity in the incoming years,” she added.
Professional Development Opportunities
Jaimes said, that, in addition to providing a platform for the company to share its work, she appreciates the benefits that ICE will bring to more than 80 Ecopetrol employees registered to attend the event.
“This conference is an excellent event to expose our geologists, geophysicists and engineers, especially after two tough years of isolation due to the COVID-19 pandemic, to what the rest of the world is doing,” she said.
“In this event our staff not only will attend technical presentations and poster sessions, but also interact and share experiences with peers from other companies. ICE participation enables them to capture new ideas, work methodologies and tools that will help them continue to grow and add value to Ecopetrol.”
Face-to-face-interaction with colleagues is a key goal for ANH as well.
President Armando Zamora will host a pre-conference private meeting and luncheon for regulatory agencies and ministry officials coming from the Americas, Africa and Europe.
Bitar said the Agency welcomes the opportunity to share best practices from the last year’s bid round, Ronda Colombia 2021, which boasted a 56 percent success rate.
“Of 53 areas nominated and offered, 30 were awarded,” Bitar said. “This success is largely due to the wide offering of areas, newer and much more attractive contractual terms, and the implementation of state-of-the-art technology for the participation of interested parties.”
Bitar said the Agency hopes to build on the momentum generated during Ronda Colombia 2021.
“In 2022 the ANH continues to promote investment and dynamism in the sector, through the permanent qualification of interested companies,” he said. “We have a new land map with 415 new areas available for investors who want to express or nominate their areas of interest, adding to the 464 already allocated in the country.”
ICE also provides a platform for Zamora to announce ANH’s 2040 Plan, proposing new investment areas with lower risk by developing research studies to identify and evaluate the country’s hydrocarbon potential.
“It is important to highlight the coordinated inter-institutional work, led by the national government, in supporting companies in the territories for the development of exploration activities,” he said.
Jaimes said that Ecopetrol has several key messages to share with attendees at ICE and other international events:
- Colombia has a vibrant and active oil and gas industry, with opportunities and challenges.
- The country has sizeable exploration opportunities and growth space.
- The traditional basins continue to produce discoveries, thanks to improved subsurface imaging.
- Colombia’s oil and gas industry is more than 100 years old and offers skilled and competent professional manpower.
- Colombia provides a stable regulatory environment for the hydrocarbon business.
- Colombia has a flourishing investment environment for renewables.
Ecopetrol executives will headline the NOC Session, Colombia Country Session and Energy Transition Portfolio executive luncheon, and Jaimes will participate in the Female Leaders in Industry panel and Young Professionals Meet and Greet designed to connect students and recent graduates with industry veterans.
ANH talks form part of the National Regulatory Agency Forum, the Colombia Country Session and International Pavilion Theatre schedule.
The Colombia Country Session at ICE will be held on Wednesday, April 20 at 1:40 p.m. COT.
For additional information about AAPG ICE see the event website, ICEEvent.org.