Colombian oil production could reach 900,000b/d this year as operators ratchet up activity to capitalize on higher prices, according to President Iván Duque.

The figure would represent a 4% jump on last year’s average of 865,127b/d and would mark the highest annual figure since 2015 when operators pumped 1.01Mb/d.

The government is hoping the oil industry rebound will help alleviate a US$4bn 2019 budget shortfall. According to Duque, higher output could deliver an additional 3tn pesos (US$939mn) to public coffers through taxes and royalties this year.

«Let’s hope that with sustained production we can continue [to provide] respite to public finances,» Duque said in a statement after talks with members of the Colombian Petroleum Association (ACP).

Duque also said his government would step up efforts to attract investment in exploration – including offshore drilling and fracking – to replace dwindling reserves.

According to a report published in February by industry group Campetrol , Colombia has less than 4.7 years of oil and gas reserves at current production rates.

«We must do a lot in exploratory matters, so that…we don’t end up having to import oil and gas,» Duque said.

Brent crude futures, oil’s global benchmark, were trading at a near six-month high of US$74.43/b on Wednesday, driven up by OPEC output cuts and US sanctions on Venezuela and Iran.

Oil and gas is Colombia’s most important industry in revenue terms, accounting for 40% of the country’s US$41.8bn exports last year, according to statistics agency Dane.

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