Ecuador Crude Pipelines Brace For Further Erosion

(Argus, 8.Jun.2020) — State-owned PetroEcuador restarted the 360,000 b/d Sote crude pipeline today after completing a second bypass.

Heavy rains ruptured the line in early April and caused erosion around a series of rivers in San Rafael on the border between Napo and Sucumbios provinces.

The two bypasses, one of 380m (1,247 feet) near the Marker river and another of 690m near the Montana river, preserve the integrity of the 503km (313mi) Sote pipeline by shifting 200m-400m away from the erosion, PetroEcuador chief executive Pablo Flores said.

The company halted operations on the pipeline on 3 June as a precaution in the face of rapid mudslides in the rain-soaked region.

Crude export commitments were not affected by the shutdown thanks to inventory at the Balao terminal, the company said.

The 450,000 b/d OCP pipeline, which is owned by foreign oil producers in Ecuador, was also ruptured by mudslides and shut down in early April, prompting the construction of a bypass. The OCP lies further away from the erosion that is affecting the Sote line and continues to operate. But the company says it is monitoring the situation and has prepared four oil drainage pits as an environmental precaution. A second bypass, a 20-inch 1,800m segment, is expected to be completed in mid-June.

The 485km OCP line is owned by China’s Andes Petroleum, Spain’s Repsol, US independent Occidental, Argentina’s Pampa Energy and UK-French independent Perenco.

The pipeline ruptures, coupled with production shut-ins prompted by the March oil price collapse, shattered Ecuador’s crude production in recent months. May output averaged 348,118 b/d, up from 180,019 b/d in April, according to data from Ecuador’s oil regulator Arch. The first-quarter average was 516,192 b/d.

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— By Patricia Garip

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