Ecuador expects to begin oil production in late 2015 or early 2016 at the Ishpingo-Tambococha-Tiputini oil block, which has estimated reserves of about 900 million barrels and will need investments estimated at $5.6 billion.
The government’s decision to press ahead with the project has enraged environmental groups and indigenous people who are opposed to new drilling in what is one of Ecuador’s most environmentally sensitive spots.
Crude oil from ITT, also known as block 43, is expected to be extracted for 22 years, with a peak production of 225,000 barrels per day by 2019, according the Ministry of Nonrenewable Natural Resources.
More than a half of the ITT block is located in part of the Yasuni National Park, in the country’s Amazon region. State-run oil company Petroamazonas will develop the ITT heavy crude.
According to the ministry, construction of production facilities could begin in July.
Work on the block will include secondary pipelines, a power plant, a pumping station to supply the oil storage, and other facilities.
The Yasuni National park, a UNESCO world biosphere reserve, is considered by scientists to be one of the most biodiverse areas in the world, home to several endangered species and two indigenous tribes living in isolation, the Tagaeri and Taromenane.
Environmentalist and scientific groups have been lobbying against the new oil development in the park. A coalition of indigenous people, environmentalists and nongovernmental organizations opposed to oil production in the area asked for a referendum on whether to drill at the ITT. Last week Ecuador’s electoral council rejected the request.
The coalition has appealed the decision and plans go to international courts seeking to halt development.