Ecuador's private heavy crude pipeline bursts in Amazon region

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QUITO, Jan 28 (Reuters) - Ecuador's privately held heavy crude pipeline burst on Friday and technical staff are at the scene working to contain the damage, crude transport company OCP Ecuador said.

The incident happened in the so-called Piedra Fina zone, an area in Ecuador's Amazon where regressive erosion caused the OCP pipeline and the state-owned SOTE pipeline to halt pumping in December, forcing the government to declare force majeure over its oil exports and production. read more

A combination of weakened terrain and heavy rain in the Piedra Fina area caused rocks to fall on the pipeline, breaking it, the company said, adding it has contained the flow of oil.

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"The incident caused by rocks falling on the tube of the heavy-crude oil pipeline occurred at 5:06 p.m. (2206 GMT) on January 28 of this year in the Piedra Fina sector, which could not have been foreseen by the oil transporter," Roberto Grijalva, OCP operations manager, said in the statement.

The OCP pipeline restarted pumping crude at the end of December, after the company built a new bypass of around 4 kilometers (2.5 miles) in the Piedra Fina area where the advance of regressive erosion along the Coca River was happening.

The pipeline ruptured in an area which is not directly linked to rivers, the company said, adding it was working "intensely" to stop oil reaching water sources and was communicating with people living in the area.

Neither operation of the pipeline nor crude exports had been halted as a result of the incident, the company said.

The OCP pipeline runs for 485 kms and can carry 450,000 barrels of oil per day.

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Reporting by Alexandra Valencia; Writing by Oliver Griffin and Stephen Coates

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