QUITO — Ecuador's President Rafael Correa said Saturday he will introduce legislation under which foreign oil companies will face nationalization if they fail to sign contracts acceptable to Quito.
"We are sending the (Legislative) Assembly a bill that would give me the authority to expropriate oil fields if these oil companies do not want to sign new contracts on the services they are providing," Correa, a leftist and an economist by training, said in his weekly address.
Ecuador, which is aiming to eventually have full state control over the industry, currently offers foreign owners the possibility of signing deals under which Quito pays operating expenses and set the profits that international companies will receive.
Foreign oil companies operating in Ecuador currently include Chinese-owned Andes Petroleum, Brazil's oil giant Petrobras and Repsol-YPF, dominated by Spanish and Argentine capital.
Under an old model, prior to Correa's government, foreign firms obtained as much as 80 percent of the crude they pumped.
"I have run out of patience on this. The oil companies are playing with us. In the coming weeks there are going to be very considerable actions," a tough-talking Correa warned.
"I have no regard for these companies, which have abused our country," he added.
"Every day that goes by is a day that millions (of dollars) are going to the coffers of those companies when they should be going to the coffers of the Ecuadoran state," he said.
Ecuador, OPEC's smallest member, pumped 466,000 barrels of crude a day (b/d) between January and February 2010 of which foreign companies pumped 41 percent.
In 2009, the South American nation pumped 486,000 b/d, of which it exported 327,000 b/d. That earned the Andean nation 6.28 billion dollars.