Bolivia Waiting for Reserve Figures Before Raising Gas Exports

LA PAZ – Bolivia’s government will not offer more natural gas to Argentina until the size of the Andean nation’s reserves of the fuel are known in late summer.

U.S.-based consulting firm Ryder Scott is scheduled to submit a draft of the reserves report to the government in late April, with the final report expected in August, the CEO of state-owned oil company YPFB, Carlos Villegas, told state media over the weekend.

The preliminary projections of proven, probable and possible gas reserves will not be released to the public, but the final report will be, Villegas said.

Bolivia cannot commit to providing more gas to Argentina unless it knows the size of its energy reserves, which reports say are the second-largest in South America, the YPFB chief said.

Argentine President Cristina Fernandez and Bolivian President Evo Morales met last Friday in Sucre, where the two nations signed an agreement updating a 2006 natural gas contract and establishing guarantees for both parties.

The revised contract calls for construction of a 15-kilometer (nine-mile) gas pipeline on Bolivia’s side of the border and a 32-kilometer pipeline on the Argentine side.

Bolivia will contribute $43 million and Argentina $55 million toward the cost of the pipeline, which will expand transport capacity from 7.7 million cubic meters of natural gas per day to 13 million cubic meters per day.

“We cannot go beyond that because it’s risky to commit ourselves to higher volumes if we don’t have certification and quantification of reserves since 2004,” Villegas said, adding that Argentina wants to buy more gas from Bolivia.

Bolivia currently exports 30 million cubic meters per day of natural gas to Brazil, with projects in the works to sell gas to Paraguay and Uruguay, and sales to Chile have not been ruled out.

U.S.-based De Golyer & MacNaughton audited Bolivia’s reserves, determining that the Andean nation had 48.7 trillion cubic feet of the gas, with 26.7 trillion cubic feet in proven fields and 22 trillion cubic feet in probable reserves.

The report was prepared in 2004 and released in early 2005, but the firm reduced its reserve estimate to 18 trillion cubic feet in 2006, when Morales took office and rejected the report.

The Morales administration cancelled De Golyer & MacNaughton’s contract, arguing that the reduction in proven reserves was incorrect and aimed at hampering the energy industry nationalization launched by Morales.

Bolivia had proven gas reserves of 18.2 trillion cubic feet in 2008, trailing only Venezuela, which has 170.9 trillion cubic feet in reserves, the Bolivian Hydrocarbons Association, or CBH, said in a report released this year that cited foreign sources.

Argentina had 14.1 trillion cubic feet of gas reserves in 2008, while Peru had 11.8 trillion cubic feet of reserves and Brazil’s gas reserves totaled 11.5 trillion cubic feet, the CBH said. EFE

Source: EFE

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