Wires

Ecuador names new energy minister as it seeks to boost oil production

QUITO, Nov 19 (Reuters) - Ecuadorean President Lenin Moreno on Tuesday named a close ally as the new energy minister as the Andean nation seeks to boost oil production and expand its mining sector.

Civil engineer Jose Agusto replaces Carlos Perez, who resigned last week for personal reasons. Agusto has previously worked as an adviser to the president and energy ministry, and has also served as on the board of state-owned companies Petroecuador and Petroamazonas.

Agusto will continue working on the government's "road map" to promote public-private partnerships and the responsible use of the country's natural resources, the ministry said in a statement.

He takes over only a month after Moreno was forced to scrap a planned elimination of costly fuel subsidies following violent protests by indigenous groups opposed to the measure. Moreno has not yet explained how his government will close the budget deficit, which has historically been widened by the subsidies.

Ecuador is also launching a bidding process for the construction of a new refinery with a capacity of up to 300,000 barrels per day (bpd) and a concession for a 480-megawatt hydroelectric plant.

Ecuador, which produces about 545,000 bpd, has announced its withdrawal from the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) as of January 2020 due to fiscal problems. (Reporting by Alexandra Valencia, writing by Brian Ellsworth, Editing by Rosalba O'Brien)