Ecuador drills the first barrel of oil in a pristine corner of the Amazon rainforest

Ecuador has started drilling the first oil from Yasuní National Park, a pristine corner of the Amazon rainforest.

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Aeriel view of equipment for oil exploration is seen at the Tiputini area, Ecuador September 7, 2016.
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REUTERS/Guillermo Granja

Vice President Jorge Glas toured the site with reporters on September 7 as state oil company Petroamazonas drilled the first barrel of oil from just outside the park.


Yasuní is a nearly 3,800-square-mile protected nature preserve on the Western edge of the Amazon.

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Ecuador’s Yasuni National Park is seen shaded in green.
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Google Maps

Scientists estimate 150 amphibian, 120 reptile, and 4,000 vascular plant species live in the area, which the Ecuadorian government began protecting in 1979.

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An aerial view of the Tiputini river is seen in the Ecuadorean rainforest, September 7, 2016.
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REUTERS/Guillermo Granja

Source: United Nations Development Programme


Yasuní is also a UNESCO site, since in addition to its unparalleled biodiversity, indigenous tribes also call the area home.

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A butterfly rests on a plant at the ITT, or block 43, oil block in Tiputini, Ecuador September 7, 2016.
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REUTERS/Guillermo Granja

Source: PLOS One


But the area also contains 40% of Ecuador’s proven oil reserves — 1.7 billion barrels.

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Workers stand near an oil drilling rig belonging to Petroamazonas at Miranda Port in Tiputini, Ecuador September 7, 2016.
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REUTERS/Guillermo Granja

Source: AFP


Since Ecuador gets half of its income from oil, the drop in oil prices around the world has hit the OPEC country hard.

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Workers are seen at Miranda Port in Tiputini, Ecuador September 7, 2016.
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REUTERS/Guillermo Granja

Source: Reuters


In 2007, President Rafael Correa asked wealthy countries to pay $3.6 billion to keep Ecuador from drilling in the national park.

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Members of the media inspect measures taken at the ITT, or block 43, oil block by Petroamazonas to minimize impact on the environment during oil production in Tiputini, Ecuador September 7, 2016.
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REUTERS/Guillermo Granja

Some environmentalists and economists alike heralded the proposal as a revolutionary way to combat climate change, while others dubbed Correa’s plan “ecological blackmail.”

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Soldiers stand guard near an oil drilling rig belonging to Petroamazonas at Miranda Port in Tiputini, Ecuador September 7, 2016.
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REUTERS/Guillermo Granja

Sources: Journal of Political Economy, Scientific American, Anthropocene, Slate


In the end, the world only coughed up about 4% of Correa’s request, so he scrapped the plan in 2013.

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Members of the media inspect measures taken at the ITT, or block 43, oil block by Petroamazonas to minimise impact on the environment during oil production in Tiputini, Ecuador September 7, 2016.
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REUTERS/Guillermo Granja

Source: Reuters


The site Petroamazonas began drilling on Wednesday — the Tiputini block of what’s called the ITT (Ishpingo-Tambococha-Tiputini) — is just outside of the park, but the oil comes from beneath the Yasuní.

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matthewitt/Flickr

The government says the Tiputini block will allow Ecuador to go from producing 550,000 barrels per day to 570,000.

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An oil drilling rig belonging to Petroamazonas is seen at Miranda Port in Tiputini, Ecuador, September 7, 2016.
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REUTERS/Guillermo Granja

Source: Reuters


The Tiputini block could produce 300,000 barrels per day by 2022.

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Ecuadorean Vice President Jorge Glass inspects equipment at the ITT, or block 43, oil block before the start of production in Tiputini, Ecuador September 7, 2016.
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REUTERS/Guillermo Granja

Source: AFP


“It’s the start of a new era for Ecuadorean oil,” Vice President Glas said at the drilling site. “In this new era, first comes care for the environment and second responsibility for the communities and the economy, for the Ecuadorean people.”

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Ecuadorean Vice President Jorge Glass inspects equipment at the ITT, or block 43, oil block before the start of production in Tiputini, Ecuador September 7, 2016.
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REUTERS/Guillermo Granja

Source: Reuters


While the move will give Ecuador a welcome influx of cash in a time of low oil prices, environmentalists expressed their dismay at the potential loss of biodiversity drilling could bring.

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Members of the media inspect measures taken at the ITT, or block 43, oil block by Petroamazonas to minimise impact on the environment during oil production in Tiputini, Ecuador September 7, 2016.
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REUTERS/Guillermo Granja

“The world can simply not afford to lose a place like Yasuní,” said Kevin Koenig, Ecuador program director at the advocacy group Amazon Watch said in a statement. “At a time when scientists affirm we need to keep more than 80% of all crude reserves in the ground to avoid catastrophic climate change, this is the last place on Earth they should be drilling.”

source
matthewitt/Flickr

Source: Amazon Watch