Pumping Problems Down SOTE Pipeline

Ecuador's state oil company Petroecuador was trying to restart operations of the SOTE pipeline midday Monday after technical problems shut it down earlier in the day, a Petroecuador source told BNamericas.

Workers supporting the week-old strike closed the pipeline down Sunday, but early Monday morning Petroecuador restarted operations. Pumping stations 4 and 5, located high up in the Andes Mountains, then reported "operating problems," the source said, adding that the "deplorable" condition of roads was delaying the repair.

It is not clear what the problems are or how they occurred. Previous to Sunday, SOTE's technical operations were running normally, although volumes were at around half of the 400,000 barrel a day (b/d) capacity because Petroecuador workers were not giving private oil companies the light crude needed to dilute heavier crude for transport.

Petroecuador declared force majeure on exports last week because of the effects of the strike, which is in protest at what workers see as government plans to increase the role of the private sector in the country's oil industry. The scheduled weekend loading of a tanker at the port of Balao was reportedly delayed, and local press reported that a fault in information systems delayed the dispatch of fuel tankers from its Pascual terminal, causing shortages at filling stations.

Unions have threatened to step up strike action this week, and union leader Diego Cano said production would be cut 50% by more workers participating, and that power sector workers could join the strike in sympathy, as they too face privatization moves.

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