Bolivia has to produce more gas or import fuel

Apr 09, 2004 02:00 AM

A top executive in Bolivia's state-owned energy company said that the country will be forced to import fuel if it doesn't do more to exploit its vast reserves of natural gas. The country, however, will be wary of moving too fast on an issue that prompted the ouster of the previous administration.
According to YPFB's director of gas exports, Roberto Cuadros, the country's oil fields provide natural gas and small amounts of petroleum condensate, from which gas-oil, gasoline and LPG are made for domestic consumption. Cuadros told that if Bolivia decided to increase gas production to obtain more petroleum condensate, it would have to export the surplus gas, an option opposed by the country's political left and its allies among the unions and Indian grassroots groups.

In fact, opposition to a plan to export Bolivian natural gas to North America via a Chilean port set off the uprising that forced then-President Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada from office last October. His successor, Carlos Mesa, has pledged to hold a referendum on how best to exploit the country's gas reserves.
Cuadros said alternatives to exporting the surplus are reinjecting the gas into the fields after extracting the condensate through a costly process, or burning the gas, which would place Bolivia "at odds with the Kyoto Accord," which limits emissions of greenhouse gases. The problem becomes more complicated, Cuadros said, because only a few countries' reserves are similar to Bolivia's.

He said the oil produced in other South American nations has a high sulphur content and cannot be processed in Bolivian refineries, so the alternative would be to import petroleum condensate from overseas or purchase already refined fuels at a higher price. According to the YPFB, Bolivia's petroleum condensate production is 41,000 bpd and declining, while demand is at 36,500 bpd and increasing.
Gas production is almost 24 mm cm (846 mm cf) per day, of which 21 mm (740 mm cf) are exported to Brazil for the use of Sao Paulo industry and a thermoelectric plant in Cuiaba.

Contracts between Bolivia and Brazil -- and one to be discussed by Mesa and Argentinean counterpart Nestor Kirchner -- could prevent a deficit for about two years, said YPFB. The company says Bolivia must ensure sustained production of another 4.2 mm cmpd by 2006 and then increase that to another 12 mm per day four years later.
YPFB has begun to warn political organizations and social groups about the looming deficit as part of the government's information campaign in anticipation of the gas referendum, which will likely take place in three months.

Source: EFE
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