Ecuadorian state-owned oil firm Petroamazonas will begin employing a new "multilateral" drilling technique next month with the goal of boosting production and mitigating its environmental impact.

Petroamazonas' drilling manager, Moises Cevallos, told Efe that the technique is 96 percent effective and has already been used in Venezuela, the North Sea and China.

U.S. oil services company Halliburton has been hired to implement the new system in Ecuador under a contractual modality that includes technology transfers, Cevallos said.

Petroamazonas sees the technique as a means of improving efficiency and boosting reserves, although "the main goal of course is to increase production," he added.

He said multilateral drilling uses a single "mother wellbore" from which branches radiate outward to cover a larger surface area of the deposit.

Petroamazonas will employ that system at two wells - Oso 54 and Oso 59 - located in a production zone straddling the Amazon provinces of Napo and Orellana.

In each case, the mother wellbore will have two branches, Cevallos said, noting that the system will be put in place simultaneously in the third week of August and the first crude should be extracted in early November.

The technique will be used at mature fields with high production levels, he added.

As a result of this pilot project, Petroamazonas plans to increase output by 20,000 barrels per day. The company currently produces 150,000 bpd, equivalent to roughly 30 percent of the OPEC nation's total.

"It's a very ambitious and pioneering project in Ecuador" that can serve as a model for the incorporation of new, environmentally friendly oil technologies, Cevallos said.

Savings on the cost of surface-level equipment, reductions in space requirements for platform installation and a greater return on investment are some of the advantages Petroamazonas hopes to obtain from using this technology, he added.

The idea is to eventually employ this system at other Ecuadorian oil fields, according to Cevallos, although he said several factors must be taken into account, especially the fields' petrophysical conditions.

Petroamazonas and another state-owned oil firm, Petroecuador, together account for more than 60 percent of the country's total crude output.

Ecuador, the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries' smallest producer, relies on oil revenues to fund nearly 25 percent of government spending. EFE