Ecuador's Petroamazonas suspends operations at three oilfields amid protests

FILE PHOTO: Wellheads painted in the national colours are seen at an oil rig of Ecuador's state oil company Petroamazonas, in Tiputini, Ecuador October 19, 2017. REUTERS/Daniel Tapia

QUITO (Reuters) - Ecuadorean state-run oil company Petroamazonas EP suspended operations at three oil fields in the Amazon region on Monday, the country’s energy ministry said, as protests against austerity measures convulse the country.

Taken together, the suspensions could reduce crude output by 59,450 barrels per day (bpd) if not lifted, the ministry said in a statement posted on Twitter. It added that the suspension took place after the fields were “taken” by “individuals not affiliated with the operation,” without providing any details.

“At the moment no staff have been retained, as those responsible for each field are maintaining conversations with the people in a peaceful manner,” the statement read.

A removal of fuel subsidies by market-friendly President Lenin Moreno has sparked the Andean country’s worst unrest in years, with 477 people arrested in five days of protests and thousands of indigenous demonstrators marching toward the capital Quito from the countryside.

At the Sacha field, Petroamazonas shut wells because it was unable to transport crude, which the ministry said would result in a loss of 45,600 bpd. The company also shut wells at several locations in the Auca field in Orellana province, and closed down a power generation facility at the Libertador field.

Reporting by Alexandra Valencia; Writing by Luc Cohen; Editing by Sandra Maler