A U.S. oil exploration company says that an oil field in Ecuador’s Orellana Province holds 1.6 billion barrels more than had previously been estimated. The new oil translates to about $20 billion at today’s depressed prices.
The new discovery puts the country’s known oil reserves at about four billion barrels but exploration firm Ryder Scott believes the reserves could be much more. “We were working in just one area and believe there could be two to three billion more accessible barrels in adjacent areas,” a company spokesman said. “This proves that earlier suggestions that Ecuador’s oil fields are approaching exhaustion were wrong.”
The new reserves in Block 43 of Orellana represents an 82% increase over previous estimates.
Block 43, located in is the Yasuní National Park, has been the subject of heated controversy since the government announced it would proceed with extraction in 2013. The Yasuní has been called the single most biodiverse area on earth. In 2010, President Rafael Correa said he would keep the oil in the ground if international donors came up with a billion dollars. The appeal brought in less than $50 million.
So far, oil extraction in Block 43, has affected only a few hectares of land, according to the government, and has not required construction of roads in the jungle area. Petroamazonas, the company in charge of extraction, won an environmental award in 2015 from London’s Energy Institute for its efforts to mitigate the environmental impact of oil extraction in the Amazon.
Vice President Jorge Glas says there are no near-term plans to extract the newly discovered oil and says the reserves will not be tapped until oil prices rise.