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][2] 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.[3]

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Project Details

  • Operator: EP Petroecuador[4][5]
  • Owner: EP Petroecuador[4][5]
  • Parent company: EP Petroecuador[4][5]
  • Current capacity: 360,000 barrels per day[4][5]
  • Length: 497.7 km / 309.3 mi[4]
  • Diameter: 20 inches, 26 inches[6]
  • Oil source: Amazonas
  • Status: Operating
  • Start Year: 1972[4][5][7]


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.[7][8] The SOTE pipeline delivers crude from the Amazonas region to the Balao Terminal and Esmeraldas Refinery for export.[3] 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.[9] The pipeline's current capacity is 360,000 b/d.[10]

Coverage of erosion impact in San Luis, Ecuador - 2021

During 2021, Petroecuador was completing a series of small bypasses in an attempt to protect the pipeline from further river erosion.[11]

In June 2022, the Ecuadorean government was ordered to pay $10 million to Gente Oil for breaches of the contract for exploitation of the Singue field, including in regards to difficulties in transporting oil from the Singue field through SOTE pipelines.[12]

In November 2023, the SOTE pipeline stopped transporting around 15,000 barrels per day of Colombian oil due to a combination of problems with its motors and a lack of maintenance.[13] These factors also contributed to a diminished overall transportation capacity in the pipeline, which at the time was reported to be somewhere between 290,000 and 300,000 barrels per day, of a maximum capacity of 360,000 barrels per day.[13] However, as of late November of that same year, Petroecuador announced that the transportation of Colombian oil through the pipeline would be resumed.[13]

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.[14]

An explosion in December 2000 left many dead and injured as well as causing significant damage to the surrounding area.[15]

Ecuadorian news coverage of SOTE pipeline history - December 2014

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.[16]

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.[17][18]

During June and July 2021, Petroecuador was working on a new route for the SOTE pipeline due to imminent erosion damage from the Coca River[19] following the collapse of the San Rafael waterfall.[20]

In early December 2021, the Ecuadorian government declared force majeure on all of its oil contracts as pipelines, including the SOTE, had to be shut down due to environmental concerns from erosion.[21] Service on the pipeline was restored in late December 2021 following extensive repair work[22], but Ecuadorian oil production was not expected to return to normal levels until February 2022.[23] Meanwhile, in January 2022, a heavy crude oil pipeline burst in the same zone, causing the suspension of crude pumping.[24][25] Water contaminated by the spill allegedly reached dozens of Indigenous Kichwa communities in the provinces of Napo and Sucumbíos.[26]

In February 2023, both the SOTE and the OCP pipelines in Ecuador suspended their services again due to environmental concerns from erosion after the collapse of the Marker river in the Napo province.[27][28] Like in 2021, the energy ministry declared force majeure after the incident, with predictions of oil flows normalizing after three weeks.[27][28] In May 2023, operations of the SOTE pipeline were again suspended because of a "clandestine perforation" of its infrastructure in the Sucumbíos province.[29]


Indigenous communities impacted by the pipeline have been pushing back against the pipeline since 1970 for environmental, social, and spiritual reasons.[15] However it should be noted that the long term presence of the pipeline has allowed for the integration of the pipeline into the everyday lives of community members such as serving as a walkway through the rainforest or as a more efficient drying rack for clothing.

In February 2006, protestors forced the temporary shutdown of the pipeline when they demanded Occidental Petroleum (USA) be expelled from the country.[30]

A Kichwa fisherman’s testimony in the wake of a disastrous oil spill

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.[2]

In the Sani Isla commune in the Orellana province, Damary Mayerli Grefa shows the skin problems that were caused by contact with water contaminated by oil. Source: Ivan Castaneira, Agencia Tegantai

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.[31] In August 2020, the indigenous communities impacted by the SOTE pipeline were calling for an immediate moratorium on all resource extraction during the pandemic.[32]

On the anniversary of the April 2020 rupture, activists protested against the renewed activity of the SOTE and OCP pipelines due to the long term damages from the oil spill which was not adequate addressed.[33]

In June 2022, Petroecuador again declared force majeure, halting all oil operations, in response to escalating protests by indigenous peoples against fuel and food price hikes and other economic policies of the government of Guillermo Lasso.[34]

Articles and resources


  1. "Transporte y Almacenamiento de Derivados" (PDF). EP Petroecuador. Retrieved 2023-03-07.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  2. 2.0 2.1 "PetroEcuador shuts pipeline, halts exports: Update". Argus Media. October 9, 2019.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  3. 3.0 3.1 "Por donde pasa el OCP suceden cosas buenas" (PDF). OCP Ecuador S.A. 2008.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 4.5 "SOTE, 48 años transportando el crudo de los ecuatorianos". EP PETROECUADOR. June 26, 2020.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 5.4 "Informe de Rendición de Cuentas 2021 (p 3)" (PDF). EP Petroecuador. March 23, 2022.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  6. "Annual Statistical Bulletin 2017 (p 87)" (PDF). OPEC. 2017.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  7. 7.0 7.1 "El SOTE escribe su propia historia: 5.000 millones de barriles y desarrollo para el Ecuador". EP PETROECUADOR. Retrieved 2021-02-05.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  8. "SOTE 43 AÑOS DE HISTORIA". EP Petroecuador - YouTube. Retrieved 2021-02-05.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  9. Ecuador Plans Expanded Crude-Oil Line. Oil & Gas Journal, January 23, 1995
  10. "Estatal Petroecuador concluye la reparación de oleoducto SOTE". Reuters. May 2, 2020.
  11. Reuters Staff. "Petroecuador to halt SOTE pipeline to connect line with bypass". U.S. Retrieved 2021-07-15. {{cite news}}: |last= has generic name (help)
  12. "Arbitraje condena a Ecuador a pagar más de $ 10 millones a Gente Oil". Ecuavisa. 7 junio 2022. Retrieved 17 October 2022. {{cite news}}: Check date values in: |date= (help)
  13. 13.0 13.1 13.2 "SOTE: oleoducto estatal de Ecuador deja de bombear petróleo colombiano". Primicias (in español). Retrieved 2024-02-27.
  14. Ecuador Earthquakes of March 5, 1987, EERI Special Earthquake Report, March 5, 1987
  15. 15.0 15.1 Higuera, Hernán (December 3, 2014). "SOTE | Programa 35 - Bloque 2 | Visión 360". Youtube. Retrieved December 14, 2021.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  16. Ecuador oil spill threatens Brazil and Peru, CBS, June 11, 2013
  17. "OCP construye variante de oleoducto tras una rotura en la Amazonía". El Comercio. April 13, 2020.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  18. "Sistema de Oleoducto Transecuatoriano SOTE vuelve al 100 % de su capacidad operativa". El Universo. May 2, 2020.
  19. "Ecuador races to move oil pipelines, protect power plant from raging river". Reuters. 2021-07-01. Retrieved 2021-12-14.
  20. "Why did Ecuador's tallest waterfall suddenly disappear?". Mongabay Environmental News. 2020-03-18. Retrieved 2021-12-14.
  21. "Ecuador declares force majeure on all oil contracts". Retrieved 2021-12-14.
  22. "Bombeo del SOTE se retomaría este 30 de diciembre; reactivación de Refinería sería el 4 de enero de 2022, informa EP Petroecuador". El Universo. December 27, 2021.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  23. "Producción petrolera volverá a su nivel normal recién en febrero de 2022". Primicias. December 23, 2021.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  24. Valencia, Alexandra (30 January 2022). "Ecuador private pipeline operator suspends pumping crude following burst". Reuters. Retrieved 17 October 2022.
  25. Valencia, Alexandra (28 January 2022). "Ecuador's private heavy crude pipeline bursts in Amazon region". Reuters. Retrieved 17 October 2022.
  26. Cazar Baquero, Diego (18 March 2022). "Indigenous communities in Ecuador struggle with the aftermath of another oil spill". Mongabay. Retrieved 17 October 2022.
  27. 27.0 27.1 Meléndez, Ángela (2023-02-22). "Oleoductos de Ecuador paran bombeo de crudo tras colapso de puente en Amazonía". Bloomberg Línea (in español). Retrieved 2024-02-27.
  28. 28.0 28.1 Valencia, Alexander (February 24, 2023). "Ecuador oil flows could normalize in 3 weeks after force majeure". Reuters. Retrieved February 26, 2024.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  29. "Principal oleoducto de Ecuador suspende operación por sabotaje que causa fuga de crudo". AméricaEconomía (in español). Retrieved 2024-02-27.
  30. "Ecuadorian oil pipeline shut down due to protests against Oxy". Denver Post. February 7, 2006. Retrieved December 14, 2021.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  31. "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.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  32. "Indigenous Peoples File Legal Actions Calling for Immediate Suspension of Ecuador's Major Oil Pipelines". Amazon Frontlines. 2020-08-04. Retrieved 2021-12-14.
  33. Cooke, Phoebe (2021-04-09). "Indigenous Communities March For Justice A Year On From Devastating Amazon Oil Spill". DeSmog. Retrieved 2021-12-14.
  34. Kern, Michael (20 June 2022). "Ecuador Halts All Oil Operations Amid Escalating Protests". Oilprice. Retrieved 17 October 2022.

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