UB-15 Drills Limoncocha 02 Well on Block 15 in Ecuador

UB-15, the temporary administration unit operating Ecuador's state oil company Petroecuador's block 15, has begun drilling the Limoncocha 02 well, the unit said in a statement.

The drilling works aim to increase oil production on the block to an average 90,000b/d by the end of the year, the statement quoted UB-15 CEO Wilson Pastor as saying.

Block 15's output will reach its lowest level of 81,000b/d in April, increasing thereafter to reach 95,000b/d in December, Pastor said.

"Production will increase to 105,000b/d in 2008 and 110,000b/d in 2009, thanks to the incorporation of the Quilla, Pacay, Aguajal and Dumbique fields," Pastor said.

The first well is being drilled with the Sinopec 128 tower, one of three drilling towers contracted by UB-15, a UB-15 spokesperson told BNamericas in an email.

The second drilling tower, Sinopec 129, will begin drilling the Eden Yuturi field on March 20.

A third tower, belonging to China's Changqing Petroleum Exploration Bureau (CPEB), will begin operations at the end of the month.

The Sinopec towers are under contract for two years and the CPEB for one, the spokesperson said.

Drilling of the first well was due to begin in the first days of March, but an incident resulting in a worker's death delayed the start date.

Ecuador cancelled US oil company Occidental's (NYSE: OXY) contract on the block, alleging the US company transferred a 40% stake in block 15 to Canadian oil firm EnCana in 2000 without government permission. The government also claims Oxy overproduced some wells and did not comply with the block's investment plan.

Production has since fallen from its previous 100,000b/d level.

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