Ecuadorian pipeline expansion back on track

QUITO�Expansion of the Trans-Ecuadorian trunk pipeline (SOTE) appears to be back on track. Completed of the 50,000 b/d expansion is now expected by the end of June, vs. an original start-up date of Mar. 31.

SOTE's limited capacity has acted as a bottleneck for production activity in the Oriente region (OGJ, Aug. 2, 1999, p. 25). Three operators in the area have joined forces to carry out work on various portions of the line in order to gain a transport outlet for their crude production.

Repsol-YPF SA has added one pumping unit to each pumping station at Lago Agrio, Lumbaqu�Salado, Baeza, and Papallacta. Agip SPA is building a new pumping station at the other end of the line, in Quinind�and replacing pressure-reducing valves at three stations. The Quinind�umping station will be monitored by a computer, and a communications tower has been erected. Investments so far total $30 million.

The third firm, Petroecuador, is performing civil work and modernizing instrumentation along the line.

When completed, the pipeline will have a capacity of 390,000 b/d of 23.7� gravity crude, or 410,000 b/d of 28� gravity crude.

As an alternative means of eliminating Ecuador's crude transport bottleneck, operators have proposed adding a second pipeline to carry heavy crudes. Two months after the passing of a law clearing the way for the companies to build this second trunk line, arrangements among the promoting companies and negotiations with government authorities are proceeding steadily, say sources.

The two sides are aiming at a mutually profitable agreement. This may be reached soon, as all parties concerned are very interested in moving forward with the project.

A high-level commission appointed by the President of Ecuador is handling the proposal.

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