* Proven oil reserves currently at 2.2 bln barrels
* Andean country nearing output of 1 mln barrels a day
By Jack Kimball
BOGOTA, Oct 11 (Reuters) - Colombia, Latin America’s fourth-largest oil producer, h opes for a 20-fold increase in oil reserves to 41 billion barrels by 2030 in the best case scenario, o r at least to 7.7 billion barrels in the worst case, the energy minister said on Thursday.
Oil output in Colombia has taken off over the last decade on the back of improved security, better fiscal terms and investment in heavy oil deposits, but the country has struggled to expand its proven reserves, currently at more than 2.2 billion barrels of oil and 5.4 trillion cubic feet of gas.
“(The energy planning department) has a study that shows three scenarios from now until 2030 about the incorporation of o i l and gas reserves: in a scarce scenario we’d have 7.7 billion barrels in 2030 and in one of abundance, 41 billion barrels,” Energy Minister Federico Renjifo said in a statement.
After years of decline in the late 1990s, hefty investments have put Colombia back on the oil map and its output is about to reach 1 million barrels of oil per day (bpd).
But increased guerrilla attacks on oil infrastructure, delays in receiving environmental permits and social protests have hampered output growth over the last year p r eventing the country from reaching 1 million bpd goal within schedule.
Colombia produced 956,000 bpd in September.
“What keeps me up at night is more the reserves than arriving at one million barrels,” Renjifo said.
Once dismissed as a failing state, Colombia is turning its image around by keeping leftist rebels at bay, which together with the implementation of pro-market policies, the creation of a streamlined hydrocarbons agency and lower taxes has helped to lure foreign investment.
The government expects $16 billion in foreign investment this year, most of which will go into oil and mining projects.
“The different studies of the various basins have yielded that number (41 billion barrels) as the potential but it’s too risky for my taste to have that expectation,” Luis Mejia, a former energy minister, told Reuters.
“If Colombia, without letting its guard down on exploration, arrives at some point to have any figure greater than the 5 billion barrels, that would be a more likely figure, but at the end of the day estimating barrels is like playing God.”