The government of Colombia and the National Liberation Army (ELN) rebels announced plans to begin peace talks in March but the situation between the two entities has remained tense. It recently deteriorated further when the rebels killed six members of that country’s security force and bombed the Caño Limon-Coveñas, which is the second-largest oil pipeline in the nation.
The pipeline is located near the Venezuelan border and belongs to the state-run company Ecopetrol, which celebrated its 52nd anniversary this past weekend. Ecopetrol issued a statement blaming the ELN for the attack.
According to Orlando Hernandez, president of Agora Consultorias, the Colombian military has continued operations against rebel groups and criminals in the rural areas of the country. The presence of those groups has made the situation difficult and dangerous in Colombia’s oil fields. Hernandez reported that while FARC (The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) has decreased its activities following a cease-fire one year ago, the ELN has stepped up its attacks. The ELN has carried out 15 other attacks on pipelines so far in 2016. Last year, the group was responsible for five attacks.
Attacks by rebel groups such as ELN are not the only problems for the oil industry. Members of the local communities and indigenous groups have been blockading oil and gas facilities. Some have environmental concerns about oil and gas activity while others are seeking concessions for labor or royalties.
Ecopetrol executives have said that these blockades have caused more problems than the activities by the rebel groups. At present, a blockade at the town of Gibraltar in the northeast area of the country has resulted in a 30 percent spike in natural gas prices for customers in the town of Bucaramanga, which is located nearby. That blockade has been in place for one month. In 2015, repairs crews were stopped from working on the Cano Limon pipeline for two months. Hernandez said the delay resulted in millions of dollars of lost oil revenue.