* Bank gives preliminary OK for direct loan/loan guarantee
* Money to go for purchase of equipment, services
BOGOTA, April 7 (Reuters) - The U.S. Export-Import Bank said on Thursday it has given preliminary approval for a $2.84 billion credit for the expansion of Colombia’s 80,000 barrel-per-day Cartagena refinery.
Ecopetrol — Colombia’s largest oil producer and the owner of the refinery — is working on projects to upgrade and expand its refineries in Latin America’s No. 4 oil producer.
“(The bank) voted to grant preliminary approval for a $2.84 billion direct loan/loan guarantee to Colombia’s Refineria de Cartagena (Reficar),” the bank said in a statement.
“The financing, when finally approved, will support the purchases of equipment and services from over 150 large and small U.S. engineering/design, equipment supply, contracting and process license firms,” it said.
While Colombia’s state-run Ecopetrol ECO.CN (EC.N) owns the refinery, Reficar is administratively autonomous, according to the company.
Bogota- and New York-listed Ecopetrol has plans to expand the Cartagena refinery to 165,000 barrels of oil per day (bpd) from its current capacity of 80,000 bpd.
Ecopetrol President Javier Gutierrez told Reuters last week that the project was 22 percent completed and should be finished and in operation by 2013. [ID:nEGE7DB00V]
The U.S. bank said it would vote on final approval 35 days following a mandatory period after notifying the U.S. Congress.
Colombia has seen a boom in oil and mining investment since a 2002 U.S.-backed crackdown against leftist guerrillas opened up much of the country. (Reporting by Jack Kimball; editing by Jim Marshall)