LA PAZ – State-owned energy company Yacimientos Petroliferos Fiscales Bolivianos said it will resume plans to build a natural gas processing plant in eastern Bolivia after the project was stalled in 2009 over a corruption scandal.
YPFB’s president, Carlos Villegas, told reporters that the state-owned firm will hold a new bidding and selection process this month and that the plant – which will separate liquid components from the gas – is scheduled to be finished by the end of 2011.
“We’ve expended every effort to avoid further economic damage to the state through the Rio Grande plant. We can now (give full guarantees for) this plant in a context different from what existed in 2009,” Villegas said.
Under the original plan, the plant was to have been built this year in Rio Grande, Santa Cruz province, but the project was stalled after a corruption scandal that led to the dismissal and subsequent jailing of YPFB’s then-boss, Santos Ramirez.
In July 2008, YPFB and the Catler Uniservice consortium signed an $86 million deal for the plant during a ceremony attended by President Evo Morales, who was a close friend of Ramirez’s before the scandal broke.
However, Catler executive Jorge O’Connor D’Arlach was shot and killed by robbers while arriving at the home of Ramirez’s relatives in late January 2009 with $450,000 in cash in his possession, which prosecutors say was a kickback.
YPFB management then cancelled the contract in April, saying irregularities had been detected in the selection process.
Villegas said Thursday that the trust established by the Bolivian government to finance construction of the plant has been revoked and therefore the new project will be carried out with YPFB’s own funds.
He added that a recent contract under which Brazil has agreed to pay up to $2.16 billion through 2019 for the liquid components of the natural gas it buys from Bolivia will benefit the country while the new plant is being built.