May 19, 2009 / 7:03 PM / 10 years ago

Protests put Pluspetrol's Peru oil output at risk

LIMA, May 19 (Reuters) - Argentina’s Pluspetrol may be forced to halt operations at its oil-producing blocks in Peru’s Amazon jungle if protests over the control of natural resources drag on, the company said on Tuesday.

Pluspetrol operates lots 8 and 1AB, which produce some 30,000 barrels per day — or roughly a fifth of Peru’s total oil output.

Both blocks are located in the north, where indigenous communities have blocked roads and waterways since April in a bid to get the government to revoke a series of investment rules they fear will lead to a private-sector land grab.

The demonstrations forced Peru’s state energy company to shut its crude oil pipeline, which Pluspetrol uses to transport production from the northern jungle to the Pacific coast.

“For the moment, yes, we continue producing,” said Keny Feijoo, a Pluspetrol official.

“We will continue producing until we reach the limit,” she said, referring to storage.

She declined to say whether the company was near its “limit” and said she did not know storage capacity volumes.

Peru, which has auctioned off mining and energy concessions throughout most of the country, has drawn fierce criticism from environment and human rights groups that say development threatens the environment and risks exposing remote tribes to new and deadly diseases.

The government is encouraging investment as it tries to transform itself from a net oil importer into a net exporter.

It declared a state of emergency more than a week ago in the central regions of Loreto, Amazonas, Ucayali and Cuzco, a move that allows it to send in the armed forces and impose curfews to break up demonstrations.

Pluspetrol, which leads a consortium that pumps natural gas from Peru’s massive Camisea field, is one of Argentina’s largest gas producers. (Reporting by Dana Ford; Editing by Christian Wiessner)

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