GROWING POTENTIAL

Colombia 2016 | ENERGY & MINING | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Reyes Reinoso, President of Reficar, on staying competitive, expansion plans, and direct investment in Colombia.

Reyes Reinoso
BIOGRAPHY
Reyes Reinoso has over 30 years of experience in implementing engineering and construction projects and commissioning refining mega projects in the US and Venezuela, his native country. Last June, he joined Ecopetrol as manager of the Cartagena refinery with a mission to lead the change of the management processes for commissioning and subsequent operation of the expanded and modernized refinery.

What are Reficar's competitive advantages in the Latin American refining sector?

Our location and the quality of our products makes the Cartagena refinery a competitive choice versus the Gulf coast refineries for the Caribbean and South American markets. In addition, Reficar has the latest technology and a fully automated scheme incorporated into our design. We have over 45,000 instruments and several hundred kilometers of fiber optics. By square meter, the network is one of the most intensive communication networks in Colombia. It is a modern refinery and the infrastructure is designed to run with a reliable, real-time information system that is in full communication with the laboratory. This means we monitor flows, barrels per day, gallons per minute, temperatures, pressures, and which valves are opening and closing at all times. We can gather information about the quality of products directly from any unit via several online analyzers.

How have low oil prices affected Reficar's performance given that the refinery was designed during a high oil price environment?

The impact is positive since it is our main raw material. The current pricing for crude oil provides an even better opportunity than originally planned. Crude oil is usually a seller's market, but we are currently in a buyer's market. There is an opportunity to buy crude from everywhere at a competitive price given the current market.

FDI in Colombia has decreased between 2014 and 2015. How can Reficar help Colombia attract more FDI?

There are several ways in which foreign investment can be positive for Colombia's future. First, this project was financed and built in the middle of the banking crisis, and yet Colombia was still able to capture a competitive rate. Honoring bank payments will send the right message to the banking community. We do plan to pay on time. Secondly, we believe the banking community that helped us at that time is satisfied with the performance of the project so far. In this regard, it sends the message that this size of project is viable in Colombia. A megaproject of this kind has never been undertaken here before, and it has been completed and we are starting to produce. With the refinery in operation there will be potential for further industrialization within the petrochemicals industry. The refinery is the first phase of the downstream sector, which is followed by the chemical and petrochemical industry, which is waiting for our operations to stabilize to proceed.

What are your expansion plans for exports?

We have just started testing the market. This is novel because historically we have never exported, and now we have the opportunity to do so. We are now also in better shape to cover our national market. Anywhere from 20,000 to 40,000bpd could be available for exports, and we could become competitive in the Caribbean and Central and South America. Nevertheless, our first export cargo was aviation fuel that stayed in the Caribbean, and there was a gasoline component going to the US.

What is your short-term outlook for the Colombian energy industry?

I am optimistic for several reasons. Colombia has grown to be a peaceful place to live and that plays a huge role in the growth of the country. I have high expectations about Colombia, particularly because of Ecopetrol's potential. We have an economist as our new president with a fresh perspective, and he is proposing a profound transformation of the company. The current low oil prices are an opportunity to renew business strategies. When the prices come back up, we will be more prepared than ever. We have made significant internal savings with a minimum affect on our employees, and we are still making money. This is a well-managed company, and my perspective on Colombia's oil industry in general is positive.