BOGOTA - Colombia oil production surged higher in September as a sudden decline in attacks by leftist guerrillas on oil pipelines allowed energy companies to pick up the pace on drilling.
Output last month averaged 956,312 barrels a day, which is 7% higher from September 2011, and 4% higher from August of this year, when production averaged 918,000 barrels a day, the Mines and Energy Ministry said Tuesday.
September's average matched April for the highest monthly average this year. It's also the second-highest monthly average ever, after November 2011, when production averaged 962,000 barrels a day.
The Colombian government's long-running goal of reaching 1 million barrels a day production is once again within reach.
Colombia saw a multiyear oil boom begin to stall over the past several months as rebel attacks on oil infrastructure, which are down significantly from a decade ago, began to see a resurgence.
State oil company Ecopetrol, which accounts for 60% of oil production in Colombia, in July reduced its target production for this year to 780,000 barrels a day of crude oil, from an initial target of 800,000 barrels a day, and blamed the lower production on rebel attacks.
But attacks by leftist guerrilla groups on oil pipelines and other infrastructure are again beginning to decline. Ecopetrol Chief Executive Javier Gutierrez said last week in London that guerrilla attacks only disrupted 3,000 barrels a day of production in September, a quarter of what it disrupted in previous months this year.
Analysts say the sudden drop in rebel attacks might be related to Colombia's main guerrilla group, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, agreeing to sit down for peace talks with the government. The talks, aimed at ending 50 years of war, are to begin around the middle of this month in Oslo, Norway, then continuing in Cuba.
Copyright (c) 2012 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.
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