(Bloomberg) -- Colombian natural gas reserves fell to the lowest since at least 2007 and oil reserves also dropped, putting pressure on President Gustavo Petro to rethink his ban on new fossil-fuel exploration.
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Natural gas reserves dropped to the equivalent of 7.2 years of output at the end of last year, from 8 years in 2021, according to the National Hydrocarbons Agency. The Andean nation had 2.04 billion barrels of proven crude reserves, the equivalent of 7.5 years of output, down from 7.6 years of production in the previous assessment.
Petro’s administration has so far refused to issue new oil-exploration licenses, though the ministries of energy, finance and industry in March said the new reserves report would be key in determining policy going forth.
In a statement following the report, Mines and Energy Minister Irene Velez said the government will continue to focus on looking for greater efficiency, and ensure that offshore projects come to fruition.
She also highlighted the increase in the recovery factor, or the amount of crude that can be extracted from a reservoir, which rose to 23% from 21%.
“This increase shows that the government’s policy of improving reserves through efficiency” is working, Velez said.
Read More: Colombia’s Oil Reserves Seen Falling as Petro Bans New Drilling
“Despite higher prices, it was not a good year in terms of reserves,” said former Mines and Energy Minister Tomas Gonzalez, who now heads Bogota-based energy think tank Regional Center for Energy Studies. “We continue to face the loss of self-sufficiency in the second half of the decade.”
Still, given the importance of oil for the Colombian economy, the government may not be ready to completely close the door to new drilling, according to Jose German Cristancho, head analyst at Bogota-based brokerage Corredores Davivienda. Oil accounts for around 15% of government revenue and about 25% of foreign direct investment.
“This report will again bring to light the debate on whether new contracts are needed,” said Cristancho. “For now the government may insist there are sufficient contracts but depending on how the current exploration campaign goes, it may be open to new contracts down the road.”
--With assistance from Oscar Medina.
(Adds government comment starting in fourth paragraph.)
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