The Business Year

Manuel Buitrago

COLOMBIA - Energy & Mining

Manuel Buitrago

President & Country Manager, Gran Tierra Energy


Manuel Buitrago has over 17 years of experience in a broad range of international corporate finance and business development roles working for publicly listed companies. Most recently, he was president & country manager for Gran Tierra Energy Mexico and, before that, senior finance manager for Gran Tierra Energy in Colombia. Previously, he was CFO of PetroTiger from 2010-2014. Buitrago also held positions of increasing responsibility with British Petroleum in the UK and Europe, Occidental Petroleum, and MPX and OGX entities in Colombia and Brazil. He has a bachelor of business administration degree, with a major in international business from Schiller International University and holds a master’s of international accounting from Javeriana University in Colombia.

Colombia is an important country for Gran Tierra Energy, with its proven, under-explored, conventional hydrocarbon basins and stable economic environment.

What is Gran Tierra Energy’s company profile?

Gran Tierra Energy is a publicly listed company trading on the New York, Toronto, and London exchanges. The company has been in Colombia for 15 years, and for the last two and a half years we have also been present in Ecuador. Our corporate office is located in Calgary, Canada. We find places to invest that align with our strategy that looks at various components including: proven, under-explored, conventional hydrocarbon basins which have access to infrastructure, and a stable economic environment that has competitive fiscal terms. And then, in that particular area we select, we apply proven technology and our proven international experience. Colombia meets these various components, as does Ecuador. We also look for a way to maintain flexibility to allocate our capital whether it is for capital, growth, development, or exploration.

Can you give us an overview of your productive assets in Colombia?

In Colombia, we have activities in three basins: the Middle Magdalena Valley basin, one of the oldest and most prolific basins in Colombia; the Putumayo basin, which shares a border with Ecuador; and the Llanos basin. In addition, we have a few, non-operated assets. We operate 97% of our production, which is mainly oil, and we use the gas that we produce to generate energy. In the Magdalena Valley, we were producing an average of approximately 15,000bpd, which is 49% higher than a year ago, and the highest quarterly average production since 4Q2019, which is important to us. These are great assets that only get better as you invest. In the Putumayo, our two main assets are 100% working interest. Not only do we operate our assets with strict capital and financial discipline, but we also employ a Beyond Compliance philosophy, which means that wherever there are significant opportunities and benefits to the environment or communities, Gran Tierra voluntarily goes beyond what is legally required to protect the environment and provide social benefits because it is the right thing to do.

How does Gran Tierra Energy work with communities, and what programs does it have in favor of sustainability?

Our Beyond Compliance policy or our ethos is really focused on activating our philosophy whenever we identify material opportunities to protect the environment, develop communities, or respect human rights. With regards to social engagement, we split them into three pairs: environmental protection and biodiversity; economic development and social engagement; and respect for human rights. In terms of social engagement, the first thing we always maintain is open and constant conversations with communities so we can build trust, transparency, and partnership. That allows us to identify the opportunities and challenges in the regions where we operate so that we can implement our philosophy. More than 40% of our social investments have been voluntary; we go over and beyond the requirements and regulations. That is why it is called beyond compliance. We have reached 214,000 beneficiaries in the last three years for our programs, and in 2020, 50% of the people who benefited were women. In terms of sustainability, we focus on our impact on the air, land, and water. With regards to air, we power our main assets through gas to power, and in the other fields, we are moving in that direction as well. We calculate our greenhouse gas emissions and report those in our sustainability report. With regards to land, because we operate in the Putumayo near the Ecuadorian rainforest, we have formed an alliance with the international NGO, Conservation International for a USD13-million, eight-year program that focuses on conservation and reforestation. We expect during the life of the project to have the project absorb approximately 8.7 million tons of CO2, an equivalent to 10 million homes of energy use per year or 215 billion passenger miles driven. We have currently planted close to 900,000 trees as a result of Gran Tierra’s environmental projects. 



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