What would you say is the importance of the Pacific Refinery as a project for Ecuador's economy?
The Pacific Refinery is the largest project in the history of Ecuador. The purpose of it is to meet the internal demand for hydrocarbons in Ecuador and export the extra. By doing this, the country will be saving over $4 billion that it now has to spend or invest in the importation of these products. The refinery will also provide some basic petrochemicals, which will trigger the development of the petrochemical industry in Ecuador, contributing through this aspect of the project to a change in the productive matrix. The petrochemicals scheduled for production around the refinery will be vital for the national economy.
What is the current timeline for project completion?
In June of 2013, a framework agreement was signed between the government of Ecuador and China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC), one of China's largest oil concerns, and the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC), the largest bank in China and one of the most important worldwide. This framework agreement indicates that the refinery was originally set for the production of 300,000 barrels per day (bbl/d), and is to be constructed in two phases: one of 200,000 bbl/d and one of 100 000 bbl/d. A feasibility study has already been conducted for the 200 000 bbl/d phase. At the moment, we are at the final stages of concluding the financing for 70% of the project cost with ICBC. The project is estimated to cost around $10 billion. We are now working on the preparation of the shareholder's agreement, which will be Petroecuador with a 51% stake, CNPC with 30%, and PDVSA with 19%.
What makes Chinese companies sound partners in this venture?
The Chinese were willing to finance a project on this scale. Another important consideration was that the refinery specifications are internationally compatible with specific nations, and the licenses for the refinery are all American or European. Therefore, the refinery will be constructed with cutting-edge technologies. We will produce products that meet strict Euro 5 specifications. We will also contribute to the welfare of the people around the project because with the construction of the refinery, at the peak of construction we will employ over 20,000 workers. With the operation of the refinery we will employ around 1,300 workers.
What is being done to meet the human capital challenge that comes with developing such a high-technology project?
This is something that we have to do as the project leaders. We have to establish the workforce, by talking to the universities, firstly the local institutions, and then on a national level to source the skilled workers that will ultimately operate the refinery. We still have time for this, and are already taking care of the matter.
How do you see the refinery developing the petrochemical industry in Ecuador?
We will be providing the basic petrochemicals. Around the refinery, the government is implementing a Special Development and Economic Zone with the aim of attracting national and international companies to develop petrochemicals and pharmaceuticals. This will take the form of an industrial park, and the setting will provide the basic supplies for these companies, such as water and telephone communications. Companies will benefit from tax exemptions and ultimately the city of Manta and the province of Manabí will get a lot from this project.
How will the refinery contribute to local development in Manabí?
We have been working solidly toward this, investing in social projects related to the refinery with the local communities. We have already supplied potable water to some of these communities, and are in the process of finalizing two health centers. We are also constructing a modern school for the neighboring community of El Aromo. We have thus far invested over $13 million, and have committed around $40 million specifically for the people around the Pacific Refinery. Environmental regulations in Ecuador are stringent and we have all the requisite licenses already in hand. We are diligently implementing the terms of the license.