Ecopetrol defers Barrancabermeja refinery revamp

State-owned Ecopetrol SA has postponed further activities related to a more than $3-billion project designed to modernize and increase crude processing capacity to 300,000 b/d at its 250,000-b/d Barrancabermeja refinery in Santander, Colombia.

While Ecopetrol will resume the Barrancabermeja refinery modernization plan (PMRB), it has suspended the program indefinitely amid the present slump in crude oil prices, the company said in a regulatory filing.

In light of the suspended modernization plan, Ecopetrol’s board alternatively has approved a roadmap for the refinery for 2016-20 that aims to maximize Barrancabermeja’s long-term competitiveness and sustainability.

As part of its ongoing objective to improve Barrancabermeja’s operations, Ecopetrol said it will make incremental investments in operational and maintenance programs to ensure the refinery’s reliability and performance integrity.

Details of those programs, however, were not disclosed.

The decision to halt PMRB follows Ecopetrol’s May 2015 strategy update to investors, in which the company hinted that the fall in global crude prices was impacting its modernization plan for Barrancabermeja.

In a May 26, 2015, conference call to investors, the company said it was evaluating the magnitude of the required investment for PMRB, and as a result, looking at alternative projects to implement as a result of the weaker price environment.

As of yearend 2014, physical progress on PMRB remained suspended at 18.14%, unchanged from a year earlier (OGJ Online, Oct. 27, 2015; Apr. 30, 2014).

The Barrancabermeja modernization, which was recommissioned by the company in September 2014, previously was due to be completed in 2016.

Despite PMRB’s suspension, Ecopetrol continued to progress with its separate Industrial Services Master Plan (ISMP) undertaking at Barrancabermeja.

By yearend 2015, ISMP, which aims to increase the reliability and efficiency of industrial services operations at Barrancabermeja, achieved 99.32% physical completion, including startup of the refinery’s turbogenerator boiler, the company said in its recent earnings report for fourth-quarter and yearend 2015.

Contact Robert Brelsford at

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