Running Out of Time

Oct 5, 2003

Colombia will soon become a net importer of oil unless it can attract more investment. International oil companies want the government to offer them a better deal.

Colombia's main oil pipeline snakes its way 700 kilometers from the Caño Limón oilfield to an export terminal on the Caribbean coast. Guerrillas have attacked the pipeline nearly 900 times since the mid-1980s. In 2001 alone, 140 attacks led to $500 million in lost oil revenues. All the same, Caño Limón, operated by Occidental Oil, a US company, is one of Colombia's richest oilfields. But a replacement for the ageing oilfield has yet to be found and Colombia's crude oil output has dropped by a quarter since 1999 to 591,000 barrels per day. Foreign investment in the oil industry is dwindling - Colombia's oil industry attracted just $347 million in 2001 - and the country could well become a net oil importer next year, just as the economy is emerging from recession and the government needs more money to pay for its war against guerrilla armies....

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