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Exploration Analysis

Colombia is regarded as one of the most attractive petroleum investment targets in South America. Spectacular exploration successes in the Llanos and Upper Magdalena Basins have transformed Colombia from a potential net importer to a major exporter. A direct consequence of these discoveries has been the rapid reorganization of the petroleum transportation system with new gathering, processing, storage and pipeline infrastructure in these remote but high potential basins. The foreign investor must, however, weigh the attraction offered by the country’s hydrocarbon potential with the risks of personal safety, and the high cost of carrying out operations in the more remote regions of the country.

There are 13 sedimentary basins in Colombia, covering a total of 745,000 km2. Seven of the thirteen are productive, and to year-end 1993, cumulative production was 4.0 billion barrels of oil and 2.9 TCF of gas. Colombia’s proven oil reserves at year-end 1993 were 1.94 billion barrels. However, BP’s Cusiana-Cupiagua discovery in the Llanos basin will, at the very least, double the country’s oil reserves. The United States Geological Survey has estimated that approximately 6.0 billion barrels of oil remain to be discovered in Colombia. At present, Colombia produces an average of 455,000 BOPD, of which over 150,000 BOPD is exported. The government forecasts that oil production will exceed 1 million barrels within the next several years.

Colombia’s proven natural gas reserves at year-end 1994 (including Cusiana-Capiagua) were 7.5 TCF, and at a current production rate of approximately 500 MMCF/D, it is clearly evident that natural gas is an underutilized resource. The USGS (1991) has estimated that 11.6 TCF of gas remain to be discovered. Most of Colombia’s current gas production is derived from the Guajira offshore fields. The Cusiana discovery, which doubled the country’s gas reserves, has triggered Ecopetrol’s interest in developing a national gas pipeline network. Recent major gas discoveries in the Llanos, Middle Magdalena and Guajira basins have provided added impetus to this thrust.

Different basins in Colombia have very different future potential. All of the larger structures in the Middle Magdalena and Catatumbo basins have been drilled, and are quite late in their productive life – over 80 percent of the primary recoverable reserves have already been produced. Very little, if any, deliberate exploration for stratigraphic traps has occurred in either of these basins, however, and detailed seismic programs would certainly delineate many smaller structural targets. As well, few of the fields have gone into secondary recovery. In the Middle Magdalena Basin, only the Casabe Field is on waterflood, which is expected to produce an additional 70 million barrels (10% of original oil in place).

In contrast, exploration in the Putumayo Basin has been focused on a single (foothills) structural play type in the southwestern corner of the basin. The remainder of the basin has been explored to only a very limited extent, and stratigraphic plays have not been pursued systematically. The Upper Magdalena Basin is in a relatively early stage of exploration, and most of the discoveries have been made in the last decade using improved geophysical techniques.

The most striking future potential in Colombia lies in the Llanos Basin, where the Cańo Limon and Cusiana discoveries have more than doubled Colombia’s discovered reserves in the last decade. Both were drilled using new play concepts, and the pursuit of other new plays will probably lead to more large discoveries. The abundance of arches and basement topography variations suggest there are numerous stratigraphic plays to be tested. With only one well per 500 km2, the basin is in a very early stage of exploration.

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For more information contact:

Leslie Sears
Petrel Robertson Consulting Ltd.
500, 736- 8th Avenue S.W.
Calgary, Alberta
T2P 1H4

Phone: (403) 218-1618
Fax: (403) 262-9135

This summary, part of Petrel Robertson’s 1995 summary of exploration and development opportunities in 31 countries around the world, has not been updated. Some of the information, particularly relating to political and economic issues, is thus out of date. It is included, however, to demonstrate the breadth and depth of Petrel’s work in each of these nations.

Copyright © 2014 Petrel Robertson Consulting Ltd.