Drought Leads Brazil to Increase Bolivian Gas Imports to Maximum Capacity

Gas from Bolivia Persistent drought in the South is forcing Brazil to increase the amount of natural gas it will import from Bolivia later this month to bring on stream several thermoelectric power plants that had been inactive, according to Brazilian government controlled gas and oil multinational Petrobras.

According to Petrobras' director of gas and energy, Graça Foster, Brazilian imports of Bolivian gas once again will climb to 30 million cubic meters per day – the maximum capacity of the gas pipeline linking the two countries – in approximately two weeks.

At present, due to lower demand resulting from the global economic crisis and because heavy rainfall had allowed Brazil to produce more hydroelectricity, Brazilian imports of Bolivian gas have fallen to 24 million cubic meters per day.

Petrobras initially had reduced imports to close to 19 million cubic meters per day, but the two countries subsequently reached an agreement to raise the volume of the shipments to avoid excessive economic harm to Bolivia.

The impoverished, landlocked nation in recent months also has been forced to lower the price of its gas exports, its main source of foreign currency.

According to Foster, because heavy rains in the first few months of the year allowed hydroelectric plants in the southern part of the country to operate at full capacity, plants producing more expensive thermoelectricity were temporarily shut down.

But a recent drought has lowered water levels at hydroelectric dams, making it necessary for Brazil to compensate by raising thermoelectric output to about 2,200 megawatts beginning next week.

To do so, the country will need an additional 14 million cubic meters of natural gas per day, part of which will come from Bolivia and another portion from increased gas production in the offshore Campos Basin.

Foster added that, in the event more gas is needed, Petrobras has the option of increasing imports of liquefied natural gas now that it has brought online two LNG processing plants in recent months.

Mercopress

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