Colombia Ecopetrol eyes 2021 start-up for refinery expansion

Source: ICIS News


MEDELLIN, Colombia (ICIS)--Colombia’s Ecopetrol is planning to restart an old crude unit at its Reficar refinery in Cartagena that would boost output to over 200,000 bbl/day from 2021, the state-controlled energy producer said on Friday.

Ecopetrol expects to complete next year the final part of a three-stage study to gauge the feasibility of restoring the unit, which was brought offline in 2013.

Reficar is an important source of basic petrochemicals, supplying propylene to Ecopetrol’s 500,000 tonne/year polypropylene (PP) exporter, Esenttia.

The initiative, if it gets approved, would cost $100m.

“We’re currently processing 152,000 bbl/day; with this project we would reach some 200,000 bbl/day,” Reficar manager Walter Canova told reporters. “If the investment goes ahead, we would reach the new crude production level by 2021.”

A Reficar spokesperson confirmed Canova’s comments.

At this stage, the company has no plans to expand the refinery’s fluid catalytic cracking (FCC) unit.

The studies are being carried out just two years after Ecopetrol completed an almost decade-long overhaul of Reficar that called for the installation of 34 new units to boost fuel and petrochemical output.

The refit has significantly helped Ecopetrol to cut its costs, eliminating last year the need to import 8m barrels of gasoline and 16m of diesel.

Ecopetrol also owns Barrancabermeja, Colombia’s largest refinery and supplier of around 70% of the petrochemicals circulating in the domestic market.

President Ivan Duque told business leaders shortly after taking office in August his administration would revisit a shelved project at Barrancabermeja designed to lift processing capacity from 250,000 bbl/day to 300,000 bbl/day.

The expansion was put on ice in 2016 amid the drop in global oil prices.

(adds additional Ecopetrol comments, paragraph 7)