Ecuador expands the extraction of oil from the Amazon reserve

Ecuador said Wednesday it had started pumping oil from a third field located partly in a protected nature reserve in the Amazon rainforest.

The extraction of 3,600 barrels a day has begun in the Ishpingo oil field which together with the nearby Tiputini and Tambococha fields form the so-called ITT block, which holds more than 40 percent of the South American country’s proven crude oil reserves.

The three fields together hold more than 1.0 billion four billion barrels of proven oil reserves of Ecuador’s former OPEC member.

Mining at Tiputini and Tambococha began in 2016 after years of heated discussions on whether to drill within Yasuni National Park.

At the time, President Rafael Correa tried to convince the international community to pay Ecuador $ 3.6 billion for not exploiting the ITT blockade, an initiative that ultimately failed to protect the Amazon and help curb climate change.

With his government running out of cash amid a slump in global oil prices, the leftist leader eventually asked Congress to give the green light to drilling.

Current right-wing president Guillermo Lasso plans to double Ecuador’s oil production despite opposition from indigenous communities and environmentalists.

“If this well (in Ishpingo) maintains the current production trend of 3,600 barrels a day … approximately $ 60 million per year will be generated, which will be invested in improvements to the education, health and safety system”, he reads in a government statement.

According to the Central Bank, in 2021, the country produced over half a million barrels a day, mostly from the state-owned Petroecuador.

Another 36 wells are expected to be sunk in the Ishpingo field, operated by China’s CNPC Chuanqing Drilling Engineering Company Limited.

In addition to being among the richest areas of biodiversity on Earth, Yasuni Park, spanning one million hectares (2.5 million acres), is home to some of the last remaining uncontacted indigenous peoples in the world.

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