Ivanhoe Energy Inc. announced that the company is scaling back its activities in Ecuador in response to significantly lower oil prices and a delay in discussions with Ivanhoe's partner on moving ahead with development plans for Ivanhoe's Block 20 heavy-oil project.
Block 20 is an area of approximately 426 square miles (1,103 square kilometres) located 125 miles (201 kilometres) southeast of Quito, which contains the Pungarayacu oil field. In furtherance of its previously disclosed joint-venture strategy to finance the continued appraisal and development of Block 20, Ivanhoe invited one of the world's largest national oil companies (NOC), which has experience working in Ecuador, to review Ivanhoe's investment in Block 20. This resulted in an agreement in principle, subject to the approval of the Ecuadorian government, for the NOC to recognize Ivanhoe's investment to date in the project and farm in to the project as the majority partner in, and operator of, Block 20.
Ivanhoe and the NOC presented a joint proposal to the Ecuadorian government in March, 2014. In mid May, Ivanhoe received a letter from the Ecuadorian government indicating that the Secretariat of Hydrocarbons was ready to move forward with final project negotiations. In subsequent discussions, the NOC, which had initially expected to complete its internal review by the end of the third quarter of 2014, has indicated to Ivanhoe that the sharp decline in oil prices and other factors have delayed its review, making a final decision to proceed with Block 20 not possible at this time.
While oil price volatility makes it challenging to move Block 20 forward in the short term, Ivanhoe remains willing to work with its partner and the Ecuadorian government to explore development alternatives for Block 20 over the medium and longer term.