A remote oil-producing region. Limited financial resources. A lack of infrastructure. These are just some of the broad challenges Ecuador faced as it explored ways to optimize its valuable natural oil and gas resources while ensuring the country preserved its diverse and unique Amazonian ecosystem.
By global standards, Ecuador’s oil industry is relatively modest. Proven oil reserves are approximately seven billion barrels, ranking the country 20th globally. Notwithstanding this modest ranking, the oil sector plays a prominent role in the country’s politics and economic welfare, accounting for about 50 percent of Ecuador’s export earnings and about one-third of all tax revenues.
Ecuador’s major oil fields are located within the Amazon region, where spectacular biodiversity and fragile ecosystems are treasured and admired around the world. Because of technical and economic challenges, associated natural gas from oil production, was vented and flared rather than utilized, releasing significant amounts of CO2 and other pollutants into the atmosphere. According to the United States National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, in 2011 Ecuador vented and flared more than 400 million cubic meters of natural gas. The government recognized something had to be done to harness and utilize this valuable resource.
Traditionally, the oil industry has found it difficult to implement gas flaring solutions that satisfy the diverse array of stakeholders. So it is with this backdrop that the government developed a plan for its oil and gas sector while also being vigilant about the dynamic and inseparable interplay between environmental concerns and petroleum production, most of which is controlled and operated by its national oil company, Petroamazonas EP.