With 13 Amazonian oil leases out for bid in Ecuador and more slated for auction in Peru, experts are advocating wider use of methods to reduce the environmental impact of what they expect will be a regional surge in oil and gas operations.

Others, however, warn that governments must in addition establish and enforce minimum standards to ensure such “best practices” amount to more than good intentions.

Perhaps the most unusual attempt to address oil-drilling concerns is Ecuador’s effort to raise US$3.6 billion from international donors in return for not allowing wells in the Ishpingo-Tambococha-Tiputini (ITT) concession area in Yasuní National Park, a hotspot of biological diversity near the border with Peru.

But the fund only has solid commitments of about $100 million so far, and Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa has said that if the fund falls short, he will open the area for drilling. If that happens, some experts recommend drilling from outside the park, using a technique called extended-reach drilling, which can be done from platforms as far as eight miles (12.8 kms) away from the oil reservoir.

Fewer platforms