Colombia's Ecopetrol Says Illegal Siphoning of Oil Pipelines Rose in 2020

BOGOTA (Reuters) — An increase of illegal siphoning on pipelines in Colombia is resulting in an average daily loss of 2,500 barrels of oil and refined fuels a day, the Andean country's majority state-owned energy company, Ecopetrol, said on Monday. 

Close to 900 illegal valves were found on pipelines during the first eight months of the year, Ecopetrol said in a statement, up from 747 in the same period in 2019.

An average of 1,453 barrels of oil and fuels a day was stolen in the first eight months of 2019.

Theft of oil and fuels puts communities and the environment at risk, the company added, as the methods used to tap the pipelines can result in spills affecting soil, bodies of water, animals and plants.

"Ecopetrol calls on rural communities near hydrocarbon pipelines to remain alert and to report any suspicious activities to the authorities," the company said. It did not say who was behind the siphoning.

At least 20 of Colombia's municipalities have experienced this type of crime, it said.

Crude makes up 2,439 of the average stolen barrels daily, the company said, most of which comes from the 480-mile (773-km) Cano Limon-Covenas pipeline, where 27 illegal valves - mostly in two municipalities in Colombia's Norte Santander province - have been found.

The 190-mile (306-km) Trans-Andino pipeline has also been heavily tapped, with 706 illegal valves found mostly in the provinces of Tumaco and Narino through August, Ecopetrol said.

Ecopetrol is working with the armed forces, police, and regional authorities to fight hydrocarbon theft, it said.

In the first eight months of the year, Ecopetrol said it also recorded 13 attacks against the Transandino pipeline, 18 against the Cano Limon-Covenas pipeline, and one each against the Bicentenario and Ayacucho Galan pipelines.

The company produces the lion's share of Colombia's oil output. Last year, Ecopetrol produced an average of 725,000 barrels of oil equivalent per day.

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