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Colombia to send 50 percent more natural gas this year to  Venezuela

CARACAS, May 21, 2012

Colombia said on Friday it would send 50 percent more natural gas this year to neighboring Venezuela, which has yet to start producing the fuel commercially despite huge reserves.

Colombia currently exports about 200 million cubic feet (mcf) of natural gas per day to OPEC-member Venezuela, but Energy Minister Mauricio Cardenas said that would rise to 300 mcf in September.

"The supply of Colombian gas to Venezuela is going to increase, as will the flow of Venezuelan fuel to Colombia," Cardenas said during a meeting of energy officials in Caracas.

Venezuela sits on some of the world's largest natural gas reserves, which the government says amount to more than 195 trillion cubic feet, but low domestic prices and limited export capacity have deterred local production.

In a bid to kicks tart the industry, Italy's ENI and Spain's Repsol signed a deal with Venezuela's state oil company PDVSA late last year to develop the Perla gas project, which boasts the biggest deposits found off the Venezuelan coast.

Cardenas said Chinese companies had expressed interest in an oil pipeline project between Colombia and Venezuela, a long-discussed scheme that has been revived and could require an investment of about $8 billion.

"The project is at the conceptual engineering stage to identify costs and routes," he said.

Venezuelan Energy Minister Rafael Ramirez said the pipeline, which could save billions of dollars in shipping costs to Asia by carrying crude to the Pacific, would have the capacity to transport 500,000 barrels per day.

"Work is being done with China and Chinese companies as part of the search for a partner," he said, adding that state oil giant PDVSA was not currently negotiating an oil supply contract with PetroChina Co Ltd.

PetroChina is in talks to buy Valero Energy's shuttered refinery in Aruba, sources said earlier this month, the latest move by China's oil giants to take advantage of a global refining downturn to beef up supply.

Ramirez said that, although the sale was not final yet, there might be potential for PDVSA to supply 16 degrees API crude to the plant, which lies near Venezuela.

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Story from Reuters

Reuters| - Fri May 18, 2012 11:16pm EDT

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