February 11, 2018 / 8:30 PM / 3 months ago

Colombia's Ecopetrol suspends operations at three oilfields amid protests

BOGOTA, Feb 11 (Reuters) - Colombia’s state-run oil company Ecopetrol has suspended production at three of its fields in Meta province, after four workers were wounded during protests, the company said on Sunday.

Protesters in Acacias and Castilla La Nueva municipalities in Meta intensified their “sabotage and acts of vandalism” in the early hours of Sunday after four days of protests, the company said in a statement.

“Hooded persons entered the Acacia and Chichimene plants and the facilities at the Castilla, Chichimene and CPO-9 fields, assaulted almost 90 workers and obliged them to leave the facilities,” the company said in a statement. “The protesters set fires, threw fireworks and blunt objects at the facilities, putting peoples’ safety at serious risk.”

The incident forced the company, Colombia’s largest oil producer, to turn off all wells and suspend operations at the facilities, the statement said. Perforation workers were also intimidated and are also suspending work.

The company did not specify how much oil the fields typically produce, but in mid-2017 the Castilla and Chichimene fields had an output of about 200,000 barrels per day (bpd).

Attacks by the leftist National Liberation Army (ELN) rebels, community protests and referendums banning oil exploration and production in certain municipalities are considered the largest threat to the oil sector in the Andean country.

Colombia’s second-largest oil pipeline, the Cano Limon-Covenas, remains halted after a January bomb attack by the ELN. The pipeline can move up to 210,000 bpd. (Reporting by Julia Symmes Cobb and Nelson Bocanegra; Editing by Alistair Bell)

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