OCP to Start at 180,000b/d in October

Ecuador's 450,000 barrel a day (b/d) capacity OCP heavy crude pipeline will start operations in October at volumes of 180,000b/d, the same level as tests currently in progress, an OCP source told BNamericas.

OCP president Bernardo Tobar said the pipeline could increase the amount to 250,000b/d by the end of 2004, Dow Jones reported, but "we don't know because everything depends on the shippers," the source said. Spain's Repsol-YPF, Canada's Encana and US-based Occidental, all members of the consortium, have made their first shipments from the OCP. The next scheduled shipment is on September 27, when Encana plans to fill two ships with a combined 1.08 million barrels (mb), the source said. Testing in September will transport a total of about 3.6mb, filling seven tankers.

The other consortium members, Italy's Agip, UK's Perenco and Argentina's Petrobras Energia, have signed reserve capacity on the pipeline but will not be ready to start shipping crude by October. Meanwhile, state oil company Petroecuador has told the OCP it has decided to ship 74,000b/d through the alternative Sote pipeline rather than through the OCP as originally planned, newspaper El Universal reported. Transport costs for private companies on OCP are about US$2/b, and the government would have a preferential rate of US$1.50-1.75/b, still significantly more than the Sote cost of US$0.3/b. Petroecuador "has done a study, but it's badly done because it just considers the transport cost and not the advantages they would have by separating the heavy crude from the light on the OCP," the source said.

The construction consortium led by Argentina's Techint completed work on the pipeline in August.

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