OREANDA-NEWS. December 05, 2016.  Ecuador will insulate its Ishpingo-Tambococha-Tiputini (ITT) heavy crude complex from its new Opec pledge to cut production, a government official told Argus.

Under the Opec agreement, forged in Vienna this week, Ecuador committed to shave 26,000 b/d from its output to reach 522,000 b/d for six months starting in January.

ITT, which holds an estimated 1.67bn bl of 14?-15.5?API reserves, has driven up the production of Ecuador's state-owned PetroAmazonas in recent months.

In November the company produced 440,000 b/d, up around 4.7pc from a year earlier but almost flat from October.

Production at Tiputini, the first of the three ITT fields to be tapped, closed November at 23,300 b/d. The field was originally scheduled to reach 40,000 b/d by the end of 2016 but for now that goal has been delayed, the official said.

Ecuador could delay the start of production at Tambococha, which is scheduled for launch by June 2017. But PetroAmazonas will continue with exploration activities beyond Tiputini, the official said.

The production cut will come from a reduction in enhanced recovery activities at some of PetroAmazonas' mature fields, while allowing foreign oil companies to keep their output steady at a combined 114,000-116,000 b/d. Drilling activity at this latter acreage had already dwindled since oil prices collapsed in 2014.

By the end of October Ecuador had nine active drilling rigs, down from 11 in September. The number of active rigs had dropped to a historic low of just five in January, down from a peak of 42 in January 2013, according to independent drilling data analyst Jorge Rosas, who bases his research on statistics from oil regulator Arch and monthly surveys made with oil and services companies.

Of the active rigs in October, just two were hired by foreign oil companies: Andes and Chile's state-owned Enap Sipec. The balance was operating on PetroAmazonas oil fields, including two at Tiputini.

Foreign Affairs minister Guillaume Long acknowledged that reducing the country's output, now that new oil fields are entering production, will entail a "considerable sacrifice for Ecuador" but underlined that Quito will honor its Opec commitment with "absolute responsibility."

Oil minister Jose Icaza and strategic sectors minister Augusto Espin are expected to detail the country's strategy to cut production next week.