Colombia’s oil and gas sector, once in a state of decline, is taking stride. The country is now Latin America’s fourth leading oil producer, and in recent years, its offshore acreage in the Caribbean Sea has become a particular area of interest for international exploration and production companies.
In 2014, Colombia’s Energy Ministry and National Hydrocarbons Agency, bid out 96 conventional and unconventional blocks in both onshore and offshore fields. Although the majority of blocks that drew bids were located in areas with proven reserves, offshore prospects in previously unexplored regions are beginning to show promise.
Industry giant Petrobras announced in 2014 the discovery of natural gas at 11,800 feet in its Orca-1 well located 25 miles off the coast of Colombia. The discovery was the first of its kind to be made in the Colombian sector of the Caribbean Sea. Just months later, French-based geophysical service company, CGG, was contracted by American-based oil and gas exploration company, Anadarko Petroleum Corp., to perform a 3D seismic survey of some 6,300 square miles off the Colombian coast.
Other producers have also started to invest in the Colombian offshore market, signing farm-in agreements with owners, and obtaining licenses to further explore and survey blocks of interest. Many have already completed 2D and 3D seismic surveys of areas in an effort to locate untapped, hydrocarbon-rich formations.
Of all the international companies with stake in Colombia’s offshore potential, Anadarko has been the most active to-date, holding interest in some 16 million acres spread over nine offshore blocks. Of those nine blocks, Anadarko and Ecopetrol, the largest petroleum company in Colombia, dually own three blocks, which span a total of 2.5 million acres. Seismic surveying of these blocks was conducted over a two-year period, and drilling began at the end of 2014. In 2015, using a sophisticated dynamically positioned drillship, Anadarko drilled two exploration wells at depths of 5,200 feet in order to further gauge the true capacity of Colombia’s offshore oil and gas prospects.
In the coming years, offshore exploration in the Caribbean Sea is expected to increase as Colombia’s government continues its process of implementing new regulations that will make oil and gas production more attractive to foreign investors.