In the Colombia department of Putumayo, Ecopetrol says that a coca growers “strike that has intensified in recent days” is jeopardizing oil production of up to 40,000 barrels per day. The protest began on July 25 by disaffected and unemployed locals, many of whom have been put out of work by coca eradication efforts, and has included road blocks and damage to bridges that have made it difficult for the state-controlled oil giant’s vehicles to access the area.
The disruptions have mainly taken place in Orito, San Miguel, Puerto Caicedo, and Puerto Asis, says Ecopetrol, with road blocks and other roadway infrastructure issues occurring near the company’s fields and oil facilities.
Residents in La Independencia, in the larger town of Puerto Caicedo, destroyed the main bridge that permitted passage to the firm’s Mansoyá field, one of its key oil production areas in Putumayo. Ecopetrol says that protesters used chainsaws to make the bridge impassable and then set up a barrier of “women and children” to prevent officials from making any repairs.
“Ecopetrol deplores these acts that constitute a clear violation of human rights since they generate risks to people and the environment, and affect the production of a department where almost 4.5% of the nation’s oil production is extracted,” said Ecopetrol in a statement on the Putumayo situation.
It added that, “the company calls on communities to maintain relations of respect, tolerance and dialogue, and together build a healthy coexistence under a framework of compliance with rules and laws.”
Though the embroiled oil firm has added significant production over recent months, the 40,000 barrels per day from Putumayo still represent a significant percentage of its overall production. Taking full control of the Rubiales field in July and the addition of its share of the Gunflint offshore well in the Gulf of Mexico added more than 60,000 per day to its output this summer. Last week, Ecopetrol said that these gains had pushed it over the 500,000 barrel-per-day threshold.
When announcing its second-quarter results, Ecopetrol chief Juan Carlos Echeverry said the company plans to drill 80 wells in the rest of 2016. “We feel now at the company that we can emphasize promoting reserves and production,” said Echeverry, according to Reuters.
Photo: One of the roadblocks set up by locals protesting in Putumayo. (Credit: Ecopetrol)