EO Senior Advisor and former Secretary General of OPEC in Vienna and Minister of Energy and Mines in Ecuador, Rene Ortiz addresses attendees at the workshop in Puyo, Ecuador.
In late May of this year, two members of the EO team traveled to Puyo, Ecuador and led a stakeholder engagement workshop with members of the indigenous people’s organization Comuna San Jacinto del Pindo de Pastaza. Senior Advisor, Rene Ortiz and Director of Socio-environmental Affairs, Pablo Yépez represented EO at the workshop, which also included technical staff for the indigenous organization along with the group’s president, Gina Tibi. The meeting was held to discuss the development of oil bloc 28 in the Ecuadorian Amazon and the potential for EO certification to ensure responsible extraction.
The meeting was of particular importance given the looming prospects of the companies soon extracting hydrocarbons from piece of land in southeastern Ecuador known as bloc 28. The area is thought to hold oil reserves amounting to between 30 and 50 million barrels of oil. The proposed exploration and development of this block will require investment of between $25 and $30 million for exploration investment and of $375 million for development. The consortium of interested companies is comprised of 51% by the Ecuadorian public company Petroamazonas EP; Enap Sipetrol Chile with 42% and 7% Belarusian Belorusneft. The land that bloc 28 is located upon is indigenous Kichwa territory of San Jacinto de Pindo Commune, which has 37 individual communities and a population of approximately 5,000 people. The concerns of local residents about the social and environmental impacts of future development are compounded by the fact that no oil development has taken place in the region in over 20 years.
After introductions and opening remarks, Ortiz began with a presentation that outlined the general context of global oil markets and hydrocarbon extractives. During his talk, Ortiz touched on the relevance of global oil prices and noted that companies should not be allowed to use depressed prices as an excuse to cut corners with regards to social and environmental responsibility. Furthermore, Ortiz explained that low prices would not deter companies from continuing exploration and development due to the long term outlooks that firms usually take when considering oil and gas projects. Finally, he explained how the EO100™ Standard could ensure future projects are undertaken with the utmost respect and preventative care for surrounding communities and ecosystems.
The second presentation, delivered by Yepez, offered a brief background on EO’s origins in the region as well as an explanation of how the standards were developed. Yepez explained that through consultation and information session with indigenous community groups throughout the Amazon Basin, EO has developed a set of comprehensive standards that are grounded in participatory engagement and that address a wide range of local concerns. In closing, Yepez gave a brief overview of the main principles and contents of the EO100™ Standard.
The response to the presentations from the audience was overwhelmingly positive. In fact, the members of the group were so receptive to the presentations and the answers to their questions offered by Ortiz and Yepez, they agreed to try to use EO100™ certification as a prerequisite for any further development in their territory. The idea was that in any upcoming meetings with representatives from the government and the companies seeking to exploit the resources, including the national oil company Petroamazonas, the group would invoke the EO100™ Standards as a bargaining chip in negotiations. In response, the EO representatives made a commitment to reach out the Petroamazonas EP to raise the possibility of working with them in the region and to inform them of the event and EO’s ongoing dialogue with local communities.