OREANDA-NEWS. State-owned PetroEcuador expects a slight 0.8pc drop in crude exports this year, but the makeup will tilt toward the country?s heavier Napo grade at the expense of medium-quality Oriente.

According to the company?s annual program obtained by Argus, crude exports will total around 342,200 b/d this year. Exports of 24°API Oriente will fall by 18pc year-on-year to around 182,300 b/d, which will be partially offset by a 31pc increase in 19°API Napo exports to 159,900 b/d.

In the first quarter PetroEcuador expects to export some 189,800 b/d of Oriente, followed by 186,900 b/d in the second quarter, 182,600 b/d in the third quarter and 170,000 b/d in the last quarter of the year.

Napo exports will grow from 134,400 b/d in the first quarter to 152,500 b/d in the second and 169,100 in the third quarters and then jump to 183,500 in the fourth quarter.

The data does not include exports by companies other than PetroEcuador, but these are marginal.

The end-2017 Napo export boost coincides with the development of the heavy-crude complex Ishpingo-Tambococha-Tiputini, known as ITT, which holds an estimated 1.67bn bl of reserves of heavy crude.

Production at Tiputini started at 5,000 b/d in March 2016 and reached 44,000 b/d during the first five days of March 2017. Drilling at Tambococha is scheduled to start by June.

In terms of refined products, PetroEcuador expects imports to drop by 4.2pc to 121,400 b/d this year, reflecting a 1.4pc decline in fuel demand to 233,800 b/d.

The decline in demand results from Ecuador?s planned 500MW increase in hydroelectric generating capacity that will displace oil-fired generation.

The thermal power sector will require an estimated 17,600 b/d of oil equivalent of diesel, fuel oil and natural gas in 2017, 25pc less than the previous year.

PetroEcuador also plans a 61pc reduction in 87-octane gasoline imports to 2,460 b/d by expanding the distribution of Ecopais, a blend consisting of 85-octane gasoline with 5pc of sugar cane-based ethanol.

In 2016 PetroEcuador already cut its 87-octane gasoline imports by 64.8pc. The fuel is blended into locally refined gasoline to produce the 85-octane Extra grade.

The company plans to double Ecopais production to 35,000 b/d or the equivalent of some 45pc of the total gasoline produced or blended locally, including 90-octane Super and Extra.

To help further reduce product imports, PetroEcuador hopes to complete repairs at its 45,000 b/d La Libertad refinery, which has been working at a third of its capacity after a May 2016 fire damaged a 26,000 b/d crude distillation unit. The Parsons unit has been shut since then but could be restarted by mid-2017.

Ecuador will continue to rely heavily on imports to cover its demand for 93-octane gasoline, low-sulfur diesel and LPG.

In 2017 imports of 93-octane gasoline will reach around 41,600 b/d, up 8.6pc from 2016; low-sulfur diesel imports are expected to close at 33,700 b/d, almost flat from 2016; and LPG imports will drop 3.4pc from the previous year to 25,200 b/d.