Friday, February 17, 2006

Venezuela: BBC Article About Oil Boom, Chavez, Proposed Gas Sales

BBC has an interesting article on Venezuela's current oil boom.
With production officially at 3.3m barrels a day, at around 50 dollars a barrel the country is getting a lot of revenue. And with proven reserves of around 78bn barrels, the country should be "pretty good shape" in the foreseable future.

The article then goes on to show how this wealth is fueling Chavez' geo-political ambitions:

For the past year or so the government has started spending much of the wealth generated from oil sales on projects abroad.

Experts believe that President Chavez has spent some $5bn on energy ventures outside Venezuela - including new or jointly operated oil refineries in Cuba, Uruguay and Brazil.

More interesting, at least from a South American (and the Bolivian) persepctive is the new emphasis on natural gas production:


However, Mr Chavez and his ministers are increasingly putting natural gas at the forefront of their long term strategy for the next 20 years.

The oil minister - who is also the chief of PDVSA - predicts that gas may eventually supplant oil as his country's main export.

Venezuela, with its 148 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, has the largest proven gas reserves in Latin America.

"Oil will gradually run out around the world and more and more countries will turn to gas. Latin America will also have to switch to gas. In fact it's much more efficient to generate energy using gas than with oil," Mr Ramirez said.

Long way to go

Venezuela is addressing that issue by spearheading a mammoth $20bn project to build a gas pipeline.

The seven-year construction programme - which is also being supported by Brazil and Argentina - would see the pipeline run all the way from Venezuela in the north to Patagonia at the southern tip of South America.

Rest of the article here.

Local wags refer to this proposed project as the Hugo-ducto, another Venezuelan commentator described it less charitably as the Gasoduct To Hell. What is striking about this pipleine is that it would almost necesarilly have to go through some pretty rough terrain in Brazil. Some commentators have suggested that it might be cheaper to simply process and ship it as liquid natural gas on ships.
Maybe that is why it is considered "proposed", Brazil with its lack of roads and
rail in certain areas, can hardly afford to splurge on this mega-project. They probably don't object to Chavez' idea - so long as he pays. Or Lula and Petrobras might simply think that it is just another product of the Venezuelan Supremo's imagination, that will go by the wayside once he finds another pet-project.