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Ecuador Rejects Oil Drilling In The Amazon

Ecuadorians have voted against drilling for oil in a protected area of the Amazon that’s home to two uncontacted tribes and is a hotspot of biodiversity, effectively kicking out the state oil company that has established operations there. 

With more than 90% of the ballots counted by early Monday, around 60% of votes are against oil exploration in Block 43, situated within Yasuni. 

Yasuni National Park, home to the Tagaeri and Taromenani who live in self-isolation, was designated a world biosphere reserve by UNESCO in 1989. It encompasses a surface area of over 1 million hectares (2.5 million acres); 610 species of birds, 139 amphibian species, and 121 species of reptiles. 

The outcome of the referendum deals a significant blow to Ecuadorian President Guillermo Lasso who has been advocating for oil drilling in Yasuni, arguing that its revenues are crucial to the country’s economy. But state oil company Petroecuador will now be forced to dismantle its operations in the coming months. 

The referendum was carried out alongside the presidential election, now headed  for a runoff between right-wing contender Daniel Noboa and leftist candidate Luisa González and. Ecuador is experiencing turmoil following the assassination of presidential candidate, Fernando Villavicencio.

Petroleum liquids and renewable energy, specifically hydroelectric energy, account for most of

Ecuador’s energy use. Petroleum and other liquids are the South American country’s primary source of energy, with crude oil accounting for 63.4% of total energy consumption. The country has significant oil reserves and is one of South America's top oil producers. Ecuador’s 8.27 billion barrels of oil reserves are the fourth largest in the continent. 

In 2022, the country produced approximately 482,000 barrels per day (b/d) of petroleum and other liquids, with the lion’ share coming from the Amazon region, specifically the Oriente Basin. The country’s petroleum production peaked in 2014 at about 562,000 b/d but has struggled to maintain that level of production due to aging fields, pipeline disruptions, and environmental concerns.

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Ecuador's natural gas market is, however, less developed than its oil sector, accounting for only about 2% of primary energy consumption. Hydropower in Ecuador is a significant source of electricity generation thanks to the country’s geographical features, such as the Andes Mountains and the Amazon rainforest. Hydropower accounts for nearly 80% of total electricity generation.

By Alex Kimani for Oilprice.com

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