Ecuador’s northern Amazon rainforest has seen heavy oil contamination since rich oil fields were discovered there in the 1960s. Billions of gallons of oil waste was dumped by then American oil giant Texaco into unlined, open-air pits in the ground.
Though Texaco claimed to have cleaned the mess up the magnitude of the degradation continues to plague Ecuador to this very day. This month, to avoid yet another oil spillage catastrophe, Ecuador has declared oil production force majeure after the country's main crude oil export pipeline stopped operations due to soil erosion in the Amazon.
State-run oil company Petroecuador shut the SOTE pipeline, with a capacity to transport some 360,000 barrels of crude per day, as a preventative measure. Just a few months ago in April, a landslide in the Amazon prompted the SOTE and another major pipeline to burst, forcing Ecuador to halt oil exports. Similarly, the country's heavy crude OCP pipeline has temporarily suspended operations as a preventative measure against possible environmental damage due to soil erosion in the Amazon.
The OCP currently transports some 180,000 barrels per day of crude.
Energy Minister Rene Ortiz said he expected Petroecuador would complete construction of a SOTE pipeline variant within five days, allowing pumping to resume.