May 5, 2020 / 7:03 PM / 22 days ago

Ecopetrol unit condemns attacks against oil pipelines in Colombia

BOGOTA, May 5 (Reuters) - Ecopetrol’s oil transportation unit on Tuesday condemned a series of attacks in north east Colombia that have taken place against two of its pipelines since last Saturday

Cenit, a subsidiary of Colombia’s majority state-owned oil company Ecopetrol, said six attacks have been carried out since Saturday on its Cano Limon-Covenas crude oil pipeline, while one attack was committed against its Bicentenario pipeline.

“We totally reject attacks against the country’s oil pipelines, which cause negative social, economic and environmental effects,” Cenit Chief Executive Hector Manosalva said in a statement.

The crisis caused by COVID-19 and measures taken to prevent spreading the virus makes repairing damage to the pipelines more difficult, Manosalva added.

The pipelines are two of the most important in Colombia. The Cano Limon-Covenas pipeline measures 773 kilometers (480 miles) and can transport up to 210,000 barrels of oil per day (bpd), while the 230-km long Bicentenario transports an average of 150,000 bpd.

The attacks against the pipelines took place at locations in the Colombian provinces of Arauca, North Santander, and Boyaca, requiring the company to activate contingency plans to avoid contamination of nearby rivers and the surrounding environment, Cenit said.

The attacks were attributed to the National Liberation Army (ELN) by a high-ranking member of Colombia’s armed forces who asked not to be named, who also said that pumping oil through the pipelines had been suspended.

The ELN, the country’s largest leftist rebel guerrilla group, said it would observe a month-long unilateral ceasefire until April 30 as a humanitarian gesture to the Colombian people who face coronavirus.

The company has sent technical and operational personnel to areas of the pipelines affected by the attacks to carry out inspection works while adopting measures to prevent infections of COVID-19, it said.

The quantity of oil spilled as a result of the attacks has yet to be confirmed, a spokesman for Ecopetrol said.

In March, an explosion destroyed a section of the Transandino pipeline in southern Colombia, but did not cause an oil spill.

So far this year, 25 attacks have been carried out against pipelines in the Andean country, Cenit said. (Reporting by Luis Jaime Acosta and Oliver Griffin Editing by Marguerita Choy)

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