The thriving Colombian oil industry is likely to see a further boom, thanks to exploration initiatives in offshore and heavy oil, and a favourable business climate, says Orlando Cabrales, president of the country’s National Hydrocarbons Agency (ANH), which provides the legal and operating framework for Colombia’s hydrocarbons sector.

In late 2012, ANH invited bids for licences for oil exploration in a bidding round that attracted 53 international companies. Mr Cabrales, speaking to fDi shortly after the bid was completed, said the outcome was affirmation of investor belief in Colombia. “Investors [in the petroleum industry] go where the oil is, but that is not the whole picture. A lot depends on the conditions for their operations,” he said.

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In the past decade, Colombia’s oil industry has developed exponentially, thanks in part to a cessation of hostilities that locked parts of the country in civil war for years. At the same time, a series of structural reforms aimed at improving the business environment has been introduced. Colombia also benefited from investors’ increasing impatience with other countries in the region, such as Argentina and Venezuela, where investment in the oil sector has become more risky.

According to greenfield investment monitor fDi Markets, between 2003 and 2012, foreign companies invested more than $13bn in the oil, gas and coal sector in Colombia. Mr Cabrales estimates that the latest bidding round will bring another $2.6bn over the next four years, especially to the first exploration projects in Colombia’s unconventional oils.

“We observed the competition [to obtain licences] to explore shale oil and offshore. We have not had any contracts in that before,” said Mr Cabrales. The majority of companies seeking licences in 2012 to explore oil in Colombia were from Canada, China and the US. From the region, major international companies, such as Brazil’s Petrobras and Chile’s Enap, had a significant presence, as did Argentinian companies.

The next oil bidding round will be most likely conducted by ANH in 2014, said Mr Cabrales, while in 2013 the agency is planning to grant licences for investments in coal bed methane.