Ecuador’s oil output recovers after pipeline repaired

(Reuters) – Ecuador’s oil output has almost fully recovered after pipeline maintenance to repair erosion in the Andean country’s Amazon region caused production to dwindle to less than 100,000 barrels per day (bpd), the energy ministry said.

The erosion, a naturally occurring phenomenon along the Coca River, forced a halt to pumping in the SOTE pipeline and its private-sector counterpart the OCP pipeline.

President Guillermo Lasso government declared force majeure on Dec. 13, meaning the exceptional circumstances were preventing the country from exporting and honouring production contracts.

“The ministry’s decision to lift the force majeure provides for the restoration of normal operating conditions for transporting crude oil in the country, which has allowed us to recover very important production volumes,” Energy Minister Juan Carlos Bermeo said in a statement late on Thursday.

As of Thursday, oil production had recovered to some 449,000 bpd, 93% of the volume before the shutdown, of which 346,000 barrels came from state-owned Petroecuador, while 103,000 barrels came from private companies.

Before the crisis, Ecuador’s oil production was around 485,000 bpd, official figures showed.

Exports of crude have also resumed, the ministry added.

The Esmeraldas and Shushufindi refineries have returned to full capacity and La Libertad refinery is expected to reach maximum output on Jan. 9.

The OCP pipeline is also working at full capacity and has transported some 240,000 barrels of oil, the ministry said.

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