* Percentage of exports to U.S. Gulf Coast, Asia falls
* Ecopetrol did not price crudes using WTI in Q4 (Adds details on exports, investment, output)
By Jack Kimball
BOGOTA, Feb 15 (Reuters) - Colombia’s state oil company, Ecopetrol, said on Wednesday its 2011 net profit rose 85 percent to 15.44 trillion pesos ($8.65 billion) compared with 2010, pushed up by more output and exports.
Once seen as a failing state, Colombia began to turn its image around after a 2002 U.S.-backed security crackdown against leftist rebels made the country safer and opened up more areas to oil exploration and production.
Ecopetrol said operating profit rose 82 percent to 24 trillion pesos last year compared with 2010.
Earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization rose 70.4 percent, good for an EBITDA margin of 50 percent in 2011 compared with 45 percent a year before, the company said.
Ecopetrol is around 88 percent owned by the government.
The company said that oil production by the group - which includes operations outside Colombia - increased 17.6 percent to 724,100 barrels of oil equivalent per day (boepd) versus the same period in 2010.
Production from Ecopetrol S.A. rose 15.6 percent to 670,100 boepd last year compared with 2010.
As a percentage of exports, shipments to the U.S. Gulf Coast fell to 52.4 percent in 2011 from 60.3 percent in 2010, while exports to the Far East also decreased to 13.2 percent from 16.5 percent, it said.
Ecopetrol loaded three ships of 2 million barrels each for export to the Far East last year, the company said.
Shipments to the Caribbean shot up to 10.6 percent last year from 2.5 percent in 2010.
In October, market sources said Ecopetrol had switched the pricing basis for its Vasconia and Castilla grade crude oils from the troubled U.S. benchmark, West Texas Intermediate (WTI), to North Sea Brent, but a company source later said the company had not abandoned WTI.
“In the last quarter of the year, there were no exports referenced to WTI,” the company said.
Ecopetrol’s investments in 2011 rose 20 percent to $7.2 billion, mainly in production and transport, compared with the previous year, the company said.
The New York- and Bogota-listed company plans to invest $8.47 billion in 2012, mainly in production and transport.
In 2011, Ecopetrol Group’s proven reserves rose 8.3 percent to 1.86 billion boepd versus 2010, driven by existing fields and acquisitions.
Colombia’s total national oil production has ramped up to a record 950,000 bpd as easing security concerns allowed greater exploitation of heavy crude areas in addition to incremental production rises at existing fields. (Reporting by Jack Kimball; editing by Andre Grenon)