QUITO, Ecuador — Ecuador announced Friday that it has temporarily suspended oil exports after a flooded river washed out a mountainside in the heart of the Amazon, destroying two large pipelines critical to the South American nation’s crude production.
Energy Minister René Ortiz said in an interview with the Teleamazonas television station that both damaged lines should be repaired within five weeks. He added that deals with foreign clients won’t be jeopardized, citing contracts that anticipate such unanticipated incidents.
The parallel pipelines broke Monday when the Quijos River flooded, washing away a mountainside supporting them. The one owned by the state-run oil firm Transecuatoriano carries 360,000 barrels each day, while the one privately run by Oleoducto de Crudos Pesados sends 450,000 barrels daily of heavy crude.
Nearly 100 oil workers responded, trying to stop spilled crude from polluting the Quijos River — whose rising waters caused the damage — and the downstream Coca River, officials said. The break happened 100 kilometres (62 miles) from the capital of Quito deep in the Amazon.
Officials have said there is no risk of fuel shortages within Ecuador due to ample storage. Also, the coronavirus has prompted the nation of 17 million to abide by a rigorous quarantine significantly cutting down traffic.
Adding to troubles of Ecuador’s production, a massive power failure Tuesday damaged the Esmeraldas refinery, the largest in the country.
“The parts that will have to be changed in the refinery aren’t readily available in the market, so that repair will take some time,” said Ortiz, without providing details.
Ecuador produces roughly 530,000 barrels of crude daily. Of that 60% is exported and the rest used domestically. Oil represents 35% of the country’s total exports, and it makes up one of the nation’s most important sources of income.
The Associated Press