Ecuador State-Owned Oil Pipeline Restarts Pumping Operations

QUITO (Reuters) — Ecuador's state-owned SOTE oil pipeline has restarted pumping after works to address erosion in the country's Amazon region were completed, the energy ministry said on Friday, adding that operations in oil fields will restart in around 10 days.

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. It also pushed the government of President Guillermo Lasso to declare force majeure over oil exports and production contracts on Dec. 13.

Pumping started on Thursday night after the successful construction of a bypass to protect the pipeline from erosion, which has been advancing along the Coca River since last year, the energy ministry said.

"SOTE operations will also allow oil fields and the Esmeraldas and La Libertad refineries to gradually resume work," the ministry added.

Ecuador's oil output hit 90,358 barrels on Dec. 29, down from 485,000 barrels per day before the crisis began, according to official figures.

The OCP pipeline is also expected to restart operations on Friday following construction of a bypass to protect it from the threat of erosion.

In April 2020, both pipelines in the country suffered a rupture due to the sinking of land in the area, which led the country to declare force majeure in its exports and lower its production levels.

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