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A new oil pipeline with potential capacity of up to 400,000b/d linking Colombia's Llanos basin to the Pacific coast could be operational by end-2016, according to Leigh Cruess, energy marketing and international VP at engineering firm Enbridge (NYSE: ENB).
"We would envisage a construction period of two years, so it just depends on how long it takes to get the environmental permitting arranged," Cruess told BNamericas at the Colombia oil and gas conference and exhibition in Cartagena.
The company's plans envision five routes through the Andes to Pacific ports Tumaco or Buenaventura. The 200,000-400,000b/d pipeline could stretch 800km, said the executive.
Enbridge is part of a seven-company consortium, including producers and refiners, involved in pre-feasibility studies for the pipeline. Participants would hold equity stakes in the project.
Cruess would not comment on project costs, but confirmed investment would run into the billions of US dollars.
"It's a big project and would require a lot of financing. It depends on the route we choose to take; however, we don't envisage the securing of financing as an issue. We have already had considerable interest in the scheme."
By comparison, the cost of the 120,000b/d, 150km first stage of state oil company Ecopetrol's (NYSE: EC) OBC pipeline project is expected to hit US$1bn. Costs for the Pacific line would likely be higher due to the challenging terrain the project would cross.
A pipeline to the Pacific coast would be attractive to Colombia's oil industry as it would provide easier access to Asian markets. Cruess confirmed that Asian companies have expressed interest in financing the project.
Currently around 20% of the country's oil exports go to China, from the Caribbean port of Coveñas around South Africa's Cape of Good Hope. Enbridge estimates a Pacific line would reduce freight costs from current levels of US$5/b to around US$3/b.
Enbridge previously held a 24.7% stake in Colombia's Ocensa pipeline, which the company sold to Ecopetrol in 2009 for US$419mn.