Colombian rebels torch convoy repairing Ecopetrol pipeline

BOGOTA (Reuters) – A Colombian rebel group stopped and set fire to 12 vehicles transporting contractors and equipment to repair a pipeline on behalf of state-owned oil company Ecopetrol, police officials said yesterday.

No one was killed or injured in Sunday’s attack by the National Liberation Army, or ELN, in a rural area in Norte de Santander province, near the border with Venezuela. The area is a hotbed for rebel activity.

The convoy was intercepted and torched as it headed to carry out repairs on the Cano Limon-Covenas pipeline that has been halted for the last month after several bomb attacks by the ELN and the FARC, another rebel group.

Flow along the 780-km pipeline, with capacity to transport 210,000 barrels of crude from oil fields in northern Arauca province, has also been halted by a local indigenous community, which has refused to allow workers onto its land to do repairs.

The series of attacks and repair delays have obliged US-based Occidental to stop work in the Cano Limon and Caricare fields, which usually produce 67,000 barrels per day, and prompted a declaration of force majeure by Ecopetrol.

Each day that production is stalled results in a loss of 7 percent of the Andean nation’s total production, which is around one million barrels per day, Ecopetrol said.

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