The metabolism of oil extraction: A bottom-up approach applied to the case of Ecuador

Rony Parra, Louisa Jane Di Felice, Mario Giampietro, Jesus Ramos-Martin

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© 2018 Elsevier Ltd The global energy system is highly dependent on fossil fuels, which covered approximately 90% of primary energy sources in 2016. As the quality and quantity of oil extracted changes, in response to changes in end uses and in response to biophysical limitations, it is important to understand the metabolism of oil extraction – i.e. the relation between the inputs used and the output extracted. We formalize a methodology to describe oil extraction based on the distinction between functional and structural elements, using the Multi-Scale Integrated Analysis of Societal and Ecosystem Metabolism (MuSIASEM) to generate a diagnostic of the performance of oil extraction and to build scenarios. The analysis allows generating modular benchmarks which are applicable to other countries. It is shown that oil extraction in Ecuador consumes, per cubic meter of crude oil extracted, over 100 kWh of electricity and 1.5 GJ of fuels, requiring 3 kW of power capacity and 2 h of human activity. A scenario is developed to check the effects on Ecuador's metabolic pattern of an increase in oil production over the next five years. The strength of the proposed methodology is highlighted, focusing on the adaptability of the method for dealing with policy issues.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)63-74
JournalEnergy Policy
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2018


  • Complexity
  • Ecuador
  • Metabolism
  • Oil extraction
  • Q02
  • Q35
  • Q41
  • Q57


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