Colombia may reconsider a campaign promise by its newly elected left-wing President Gustavo Petro to stop new oil and gas exploration licenses in the country, according to Finance Minister José Antonio Ocampo.
Petro, a former guerrilla fighter who took office earlier this year, ran for president, campaigning on a promise that he would stop all new oil and gas exploration in Colombia.
But Finance Minister Ocampo pointed out in an interview with the FinancialTimes that the government would not be in a hurry to suspend the licenses before having analyzed the contracts.
“Then we will see if new contracts are needed,” Ocampo told FT.
Colombia, which derives nearly half of its export revenue from oil and coal, will not rush to drastically cut exports as part of an energy transition the new president has promised. Energy exports “should be progressive” and put gas self-sufficiency as a priority, Ocampo told FT.
Last week, Andres Bitar, acting president of the National Hydrocarbons Agency, ANH, said Reuters that the government had not taken any decision on the idea of blocking new oil and gas exploration projects.
“The main, very clear message from the government is that this is not a decision set in stone,” Bitar said.
“The decision whether or not to sign new contracts or open a tender has not been taken,” the acting head of the national regulator told Reuters.
There are growing concerns in Colombia that President Petro’s plan to end oil and gas exploration contracts will endanger Colombia’s energy security and trigger a crisis it could disrupt the economy, much of which depends on energy production and exports. A shortage of natural gas due to declining production from rapidly aging mature offshore fields, coupled with ever-increasing demand, poses the greatest threat to energy security. Natural gas is an essential part of Colombia’s overall energy mix, providing 28% of all the energy consumed in the country.
By Michael Kern for Oilprice.com
More reading on Oilprice.com: