* Ecopetrol to start pilot project for unconventional reserves
* Output to remain flat or rise in 2018 (Adds quotes, context, details)
By Marianna Parraga
Low crude oil prices had forced Ecopetrol and other oil
Last year "was a very good year for us. Analysts were
expecting a lower profit," Bayon said on the sidelines of the
CERAWeek energy conference in
The company expects its oil and gas production to remain
flat or to rise slightly this year to 725,000 barrels of oil
equivalent per day (boepd), under an investment budget of
Part of that spending will go to projects aimed at
replenishing the firm's energy reserves, including a pilot
program to explore unconventional resources at the Magdalena
Medio basin, where Ecopetrol estimates there could be up to 7.4
billion barrels, more than triple
Ecopetrol last year was part of a team that won an offshore
block in the Gulf of
REFINING MORE, CONSUMING MORE
Ecopetrol's main refinery - the recently expanded
The cost of
Ecopetrol is also reducing the volume of imported naphtha it needs to dilute its heavy crude output by making changes at its transportation system, according to Bayon.
Using alternative transport has allowed it to avoid problems at the closed Cano Limon-Covenas pipeline, which has been the target of frequent rebel attacks.
Bayon also said that tighter controls by the Colombian government at the Venezuelan border had cut illegal gasoline imports, increasing the domestic need for gasoline and other fuels.
Ecopetrol's Barrancabermeja refinery, where workers recently went on strike due to a salary dispute, is expected to restart in seven to 10 days after completing maintenance work, he said. (Reporting by Marianna Parraga, Editing by Rosalba O'Brien)