Ecuador is planning to offer blocks for offshore exploration and production of natural gas in the Gulf of Guayaquil, following auctions for onshore areas to be completed next year, Energy Minister Xavier Vera said on Monday, according to a Reuters report. The Gulf of Guayaquil gas auctions will most likely be held in early 2024.
Ecuador expects to boost crude oil production to 750,000 bbl/d by 2025 from a current 490,000 bbl/d. A large portion of the increase is planned to come from onshore areas in the Amazon region awarded as part of its Intracampos oil round.
“There is more confidence (from investors) now,” Vera told Offshore in an interview in Houston, referring to the successful awarding of blocks in the Intracampos round’s Phase 1. “The area is very rich in crude deposits which do not require great drilling depths.”
Vera expects to greenlight a proposal for the gas blocks in shallow and deepwaters of the Gulf of Guayaquil in the coming months once the areas are defined. The model will be production sharing contracts.
To support the expected production growth, Ecuador’s energy ministry is also evaluating the availability of drilling rigs to secure units, the minister said. Specialized equipment will also be needed for expanded exploration, following a 15-year pause in exploration by private companies in the nation, vice minister Xavier Briz said.
Millions of barrels of Ecuadorian crude could be offered soon on the spot market following an oil-for-debt renegotiation between Ecuador and China’s Petrochina, Vera said.
The crude, key for U.S. Gulf and European oil refiners seeking to replace Russian supplies, will be offered via open tenders that will invite refiners and trading companies to bid.
Based on earlier test wells, the Gulf of Guayaquil is believed to contain some of the largest gas fields in South America, as well as significant quantities of oil.