Photo: Amazon Rainforest
Ecuador’s controversial plans to develop oil fields in the Amazon jungle can be successfully brought to fruition but there is little margin for error in that bio-diverse region, according to experts taking part in an international forum in this capital.
They reached that conclusion at the “Applying the Best Technologies in Extremely Sensitive Environments” workshop that was organized by the Society of Petroleum Engineers and concludes Thursday.
The ITT project - whose name come from the initials of its three oil fields, Ishpingo, Tambococha and Tiputini - partially overlaps the Yasuni National Park, one of the planet’s most bio-diverse regions.
Ecuador’s government revived the project last year after saying the international community “failed” the country by not funding a scheme that would have compensated it for not developing ITT.
When that initiative fell through, President Rafael Correa’s administration opted for a “plan B” to develop the fields in an environmentally and socially responsible manner.
It says drilling will affect only one per 1,000 of Yasuni’s nearly 1 million hectares (3,860 sq. miles).
The government says it is an economic necessity to develop ITT’s crude reserves, estimated at 1 billion barrels, despite warnings from environmentalists and indigenous groups about severe environmental and social repercussions.
Francisco Dallmeier, a conservation biologist with the Washington-based Smithsonian Institution, said the first step in developing the ITT project is to determine the region’s “vital signs.”
He stressed the need to establish a biological baseline that can serve as a basis for actions to minimize the environmental impact.
Australian Stephen Newton, for his part, said the technology exists to safely develop the ITT project, although “there will always be the possibility of accidents.”
It is important to anticipate possible mishaps and establish methods and procedures for controlling and minimizing the effects, he said.
The Society of Petroleum Engineers’ top representative in Ecuador, Carlos Perez, said the oil industry has the technology and processes to protect the environment and make the project sustainable.
ITT “can be a successful project,” Perez said, while his colleague, Fernando Benalcazar, suggested that an “independent verification” mechanism be established to ensure “confidence and transparency.”