(Adds details on cost cuts, crude quality and investment plans, paragraphs 7-11)
HOUSTON, March 7 (Reuters) - Colombia’s state-run Ecopetrol expects to resume normal exports of Vasconia Norte crude in April, after completing repairs to a pipeline that has been attacked by rebels more than a dozen times this year, said the firm’s president on Tuesday.
The interruption of the crude flow through the 485-mile (780-km) Cano Limon-Covenas pipeline has forced Ecopetrol to declare force majeure on several shipments of Vasconia Norte crude for February and March deliveries.
“We have had an increase in the number of attacks this month... We have stored (supplies) while repairing the pipeline,” said Juan Carlos Echeverry, president of the oil company, at CERAWeek energy conference in Houston.
Ecopetrol produces some 50,000 barrels per day (bpd) of Vasconia Norte that are transported through the line along with other Colombian crude grades.
The pipeline is currently out of work. Echeverry said it will resume operations “in a couple of days.”
“Attacks to the pipeline last year implied a total of 45 days of interruptions. We hope they allow us to work more regularly this year,” he added.
Ecopetrol has cut the price spread against Brent crude to around $9 per barrel this year from $12 per barrel in 2016 by making the quality of Vasconia crude more stable.
“That has saved us some $750 million. We are now more focused on the quality and consistency of our crudes, which has required some logistic changes,” Echeverry said.
The company has recently added new grades to its portfolio, such as Castilla Norte and reconstituted crude, while importing U.S., Brazilian, Russian and African oil for its Cartagena refinery.
A portion of the crude purchases are supplied by BP under a bilateral agreement, he added.
The company, which already achieved its goal of cutting costs by $2.4 billion, is now looking for overseas assets in the U.S. Gulf Coast, Brazil, Argentina and Mexico to increase its portfolio of light crude reserves and natural gas. (Reporting by Marianna Parraga; Editing by Marguerita Choy and David Gregorio)