PRIORITIZING SUSTAINABILITY

Colombia 2018 | ENERGY & MINING | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Marcela Vaca Torres, General Manager of GeoPark, on developing the Jacana Field, tackling the challenging social environment, and contributing to society.

Marcela Vaca Torres
BIOGRAPHY
As a lawyer with a degree from Georgetown University in Washington, DC, and 20 years of experience, Marcela Vaca Torres has worked for prestigious companies in the energy and mining sector, including ECOCARBON, Morgan Meguire, GHK Company Colombia, and Hupecol, prior to her move to GeoPark, where she is currently the General Director. Her extensive experience as a general and legal manager at various companies in Colombia has allowed her to lead the management of business groups such as Hupecol Group, as well as projects that develop high-impact relationships with private and public partners. In her academic career, she has served as a visiting and adjunct professor at a number of accredited universities.

How has Jacana Field developed over the last year?

In 2016, we were focused on continuing to explore Jacana Field. Most of our efforts have been devoted to testing those limits. With the exception of a couple of exploratory wells, Jacana Field was the focus of our work program. Currently, we are trying to determine characteristics in common areas between Jacana and Tigana. For 2017, our drilling campaign closed with 24 wells, for total production in Jacana of 7,800bpd and total GeoPark production (full year 2017) of 21,700bpd gross. Even when this year has been a recovery period for oil prices, the company had one of the most aggressive work programs in the industry. This campaign has a 96% success rate taking into account the idiosyncratic geological risks in this field.

How did GeoPark manage to achieve 43% growth?

During 4Q2017 we produced 24.4kbpd, which was a 39% increase compared to 4Q2016. Our performance in drilling and completion activities is above the standards in industry, mainly because our personnel and contractors operate in high safety conditions. Equally important, our work program includes building facilities in a modular fashion that is consistent with our growth and based on our long-term plans. Another driver is the flexibility in our evacuation strategy; it helps us maintain our operational advantages for lower lifting costs in a low-price environment.

How is your company working with local communities to improve relationships?

We are developing a methodology with our neighbors around dealing with and overcoming conflict. We are focused on creating a constant and open dialog with feedback as common practice. We want our neighbors to know how to communicate and overcome conflict, because this will create a more productive and transparent relationship. Taking into account the challenging social environment in the last three to four years, we have had no blockades to our operations. We have been working hard to understand the impact we have on our neighbors and currently, we are also training local contractors on how to handle labor issues in a responsible and articulated way.

What role do PPPs play in the sector, and what has been your experience with them?

We have not had a PPP as such because they have special regulations. Certain areas will fail to overcome poverty levels or reach the UN Millennium Development Goals unless the government and the private sector work together. We are working hard to ensure that the infrastructure we use is appropriately maintained. We are currently conducting maintenance works for roughly 100km of roadways; we have financed studies for the local government to allow the improvement of their road system and maximize efficiency; we contributed with Casanare in getting government approval for nearly USD23 million to pave the roadways in the areas we operate in and together with our partner, we contributed USD6.6 million to the project. We are now working to bring international aid resources to several areas in which we operate.

What are your main goals and priorities for next year?

We will continue developing Tigana and Jacana fields and conducting exploratory activities in Llanos 34 and other blocks. To do that, we are consolidating our team in order to guarantee our main goals. GeoPark has approved a self-funded and risk-balanced work program for 2018 that will increase production by an estimated 15-20% and boost operating cash flows.

What are the top benefits of doing business in Colombia and the top challenges?

There is still a great deal of areas with potential in the country. There is also a competent and professional pool of personnel. The main challenges are legal stability, fiscal policies, and regional unrest, including the impact of politically influenced environmental regulation. Opportunistic and uninformed environmentalism must be dealt with because it is a major risk that jeopardizes Colombia's economy and its future stability.