Ecuador’s state-run oil company Petroecuador expects to select a contractor to expand the production capacity of the Amistad offshore gas field, as reported by Reuters.

In June this year, the company began a competitive process to select a contractor for the exploration and development of the Amistad gas field, which is located in the Gulf of Guayaquil.

Work on the gas field is planned to start late next year.

Petroecuador had planned to seek partners for the key area in recent years, but it has been unable to sign deals.

Reuters quoted a release as saying the company was ‘progressing with the pre-contract process under an integrated service contract model, including financing’.

The selected contractor would invest at least $500m to increase the field’s natural gas production to 24 million cubic feet per day (mmcfd) from the current 100mmcfd.

They will also be responsible for a portion of the field’s total operation costs under a 20-year contract.

Petroecuador will continue to serve as the block’s operator.

The Amistad project is the company’s only offshore operation and supplies gas for Ecuador’s petrochemical plants, public transportation and power generation, as well as fertiliser production.

In a separate development, the Ecuadorian government is considering launching a bidding round for offshore gas blocks also in the Gulf of Guayaquil.

In June, Petroecuador also launched an auction seeking bids for a contract to modernise the Esmeraldas refinery, which has a capacity of 110,000 barrels a day.

A potential contractor would be responsible for building and operating a high-conversion unit to process residue from the refinery.

The company said the modernised refinery is intended to produce higher quality fuel for domestic consumption.

It would require an initial estimated investment of $2.7bn.

The Esmereldas refinery was previously renovated under former Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa’s government at a cost of $2.2bn.