SOTE Oil Pipeline

From Global Energy Monitor


This article is part of the Global Fossil Infrastructure Tracker, a project of Global Energy Monitor.

SOTE Oil Pipeline, also known as Sistema de Oleoducto Transecuatoriano or Trans-Ecuadorian Pipeline System, is an oil pipeline in Ecuador.


The Transecuadorian Pipeline System (SOTE) runs from Petroecuador's Lago Agrio station just east of Nueva Loja (Sucumbios province) to the Balao OCP Marine Terminal and Esmeraldas Refinery in the coastal city of Esmeraldas.[1] The pipeline traverses three natural regions of the country: Amazon, Sierra and Costa. It crosses the Andes mountain range near Virgen de Papallacta, where it reaches its maximum altitude of 4,064 meters.[2]

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Project Details

  • Operator: Petroecuador[3]
  • Current capacity: 360,000 barrels per day[3]
  • Length: 497.7 km / 309.3 mi[3]
  • Oil source: Amazonas
  • Status: Operating
  • Start Year: 1972[3][4]


Shortly after the discovery of oil in the eastern portion of Ecuador in the Amazon region in 1967, the construction of the Trans-Ecuadorian Pipeline system (SOTE) was planned. The pipeline commenced operations in 1972.[4][5] The SOTE pipeline delivers crude from the Amazonas region to the Balao Terminal and Esmeraldas Refinery for export.[2] The pipeline originally had a capacity of 250,000 bpd. Because of increased crude-oil production in the Oriente, pipeline capacity was raised to 300,000 b/d in 1985 and to 325,000 b/d in 1992 by installation of additional pumping units in the existing pump stations.[6] The pipeline's current capacity is 360,000 b/d.[7]

During 2021, Petroecuador was completing a series of small bypasses in an attempt to protect the pipeline from further river erosion.[8]

Incidents and Spills

Ecuadorian news coverage of SOTE pipeline spill - April 2020

In 1987, two earthquakes measuring 6.1 and 6.9 in magnitude caused severe landslides near the El Reventador volcano. Approximately 6.5 miles of the pipeline was completely destroyed by the landslides and an additional 10 miles was damaged by mudflows. The pipeline bridge crossing the Aquarico River was swept away by the swollen river.[9]

A May 31, 2013 landslide ruptured the pipeline in the Andean foothills near the Reventador Volcano, dumping some 11,000 barrels worth -- 420,000 gallons -- of crude oil into the Coca River, which in turn flows into the Napo River, a major tributary of the Amazon. The spill subsequently threatened communities in both Brazil and Peru downstream. As it flowed downstream, the slick temporarily contaminated the drinking water of the 80,000 people living in the Ecuadorean city of Coca.[10]

In October 2019, Petroecuador suspended operations on the SOTE pipeline in response to widespread protests prompted by the government's decision to cancel fuel subsidies as part of an austerity package negotiated with the International Monetary Fund.[1]

In April 2020, a landslide along the Río Coca in the Ecuadorian Amazon ruptured the pipeline, requiring construction of a new 1.75 km section to detour around the slide. Ecuador was forced to suspend oil exports for nearly a month as crews worked around the clock to clean up the spill and restore service by early May.[11][12]


Environmentalists have long been concerned about the vulnerability of the SOTE oil pipeline and the neighboring OCP pipeline to earthquakes and landslides, citing the April 2020 rupture of both pipelines as evidence of the potential for serious ecological consequences.[13]

Articles and resources


  1. 1.0 1.1 "PetroEcuador shuts pipeline, halts exports: Update". Argus Media. October 9, 2019.
  2. 2.0 2.1 "Por donde pasa el OCP suceden cosas buenas" (PDF). OCP Ecuador S.A. 2008.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 "SOTE, 48 años transportando el crudo de los ecuatorianos". EP PETROECUADOR. June 26, 2020.
  4. 4.0 4.1 "El SOTE escribe su propia historia: 5.000 millones de barriles y desarrollo para el Ecuador". EP PETROECUADOR. Retrieved 2021-02-05.
  5. "SOTE 43 AÑOS DE HISTORIA". EP Petroecuador - YouTube. Retrieved 2021-02-05.
  6. Ecuador Plans Expanded Crude-Oil Line. Oil & Gas Journal, January 23, 1995
  7. "Estatal Petroecuador concluye la reparación de oleoducto SOTE". Reuters. May 2, 2020.
  8. Reuters Staff. "Petroecuador to halt SOTE pipeline to connect line with bypass". U.S. Retrieved 2021-07-15.
  9. Ecuador Earthquakes of March 5, 1987, EERI Special Earthquake Report, March 5, 1987
  10. Ecuador oil spill threatens Brazil and Peru, CBS, June 11, 2013
  11. "OCP construye variante de oleoducto tras una rotura en la Amazonía". El Comercio. April 13, 2020.
  12. "Sistema de Oleoducto Transecuatoriano SOTE vuelve al 100 % de su capacidad operativa". El Universo. May 2, 2020.
  13. "Ecuador: la rotura del oleoducto OCP revela el impacto de construir en zonas de alto riesgo La rotura del OCP en Ecuador: ¿un riesgo mal calculado?". Mongabay Latam. May 4, 2020.

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