LA PAZ – Bolivia said Thursday it will increase natural gas exports to Argentina by 35 percent starting Jan. 1 to comply with a contract signed earlier this year.
A statement by state-owned energy firm Yacimientos Petroliferos Fiscales Bolivianos said gas exports are expected to rise next year from a current level of 5 million cubic meters per day (176.2 million cubic feet per day) to 7.7 million cmd (271.4 million cfd).
The contract, which YPFB and Argentine state-run energy company Enarsa signed in March, calls for exports to rise to 11 million cmd in 2012 and to 27.7 million cmd in 2026.
Exports of Bolivian gas to Brazil and Argentina climbed to 31.7 million cmd for the first three quarters of 2010, up 12.8 percent from the same period of 2009.
Thursday’s announcement comes amid uncertainty about the Andean nation’s natural gas reserves.
U.S. firm, DeGolyer and MacNaughton had estimated Bolivia’s proven gas reserves at 26.7 trillion cubic feet in 2005, but sharply revised that figure downward to 12.8 tcf in a report the following year.
Bolivian President Evo Morales’ government, which had kept that latter figure secret until last month, canceled DeGolyer’s contract after the second study.
La Paz subsequently hired another U.S. consulting firm, Ryder Scott, to conduct another reserves study.
That was delivered in mid-September, but YPFB President Carlos Villegas told Congress early last month that Bolivia was not fully satisfied with the report and had asked the company to make some unspecified corrections.
Villegas said the final corrected report would be released “in the coming weeks.”
He did not confirm then whether the report lowered the gas reserves estimate to just 8.3 trillion cubic feet, a figure provided by analyst Hugo Del Granado that caused a major stir in Bolivia’s energy sector.
Villegas said both YPFB and foreign energy companies operating in Bolivia had requested the changes to the Ryder Scott report.
Roughly a dozen firms are involved in natural gas production in Bolivia, including Spain’s Repsol-YPF, Brazil’s Petrobras, Britain’s BG Group and French major Total.
Analysts say that if the lowest estimates on Bolivia’s reserves prove to be accurate, the country – once regarded as holding South America’s second-largest natural gas reserves – would rank just fifth in the region in terms of that resource.
According to reports cited by Bolivian experts, Venezuela has 200 trillion cubic feet of proven gas reserves, followed by Argentina with 13.2 tcf, Brazil with 12.7 tcf and Peru with 11.2 tcf. EFE