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Petroecuador seeks private partner to cut gas flaring in Amazon

Ecuador’s national oil company (NOC) Petroecuador is seeking a private-sector partner in order to prevent the further flaring of associated gas during crude production in the Amazon, in line with a court-imposed deadline, Reuters reported last week.

As of last week, the company said it had already received expressions of interest (EoIs) from 15 private companies, including Promigas SA (Colombia) and Gran Tierra Energy (Canada). It is hoping to find a partner to invest in technology that can be used to capture the gas that is usually flared off on a daily basis.

Currently, producers working in Ecuador flare off about 65mn cubic feet (1.841mn cubic metres) per day of gas. These flares are believed by some to be the cause of cancer and other illnesses within nearby communities. A group of girls who argued that the flares violated their right to a clean environment influenced the launch of the case, in which a provincial tribunal in Sucumbios ordered Petroecuador to cease all flaring in its areas of activity by March 2023.

According to the World Bank, 400mn tonnes of greenhouse gases (GHGs) were released last year due to flaring; an activity that researchers believe could lead to or contribute to health issues such as cancer and respiratory disease.

Alejandro Gonzalez, the director of environmental engineering at the University of the Americas explained that the release of chemicals such as benzene during flaring is a major cause of the aforementioned health concerns. “There’s a direct link between inhaling benzene and cancer,” he explained, emphasising that children are the most heavily affected population group.

Ecuador’s Energy Ministry released a public apology in April, acknowledging its delay in extinguishing the fires. Since then, Petroecuador has begun centralising flares at certain fields and has dismantled 49 flares in the process.

According to community lawyer Pablo Fajardo, however, the company reported previously shut flares as being newly shut down. “They say they switched off three flares that were already turned off and hope to eliminate 45 flares, which also don’t work, in the rest of the year,” he claimed.