Sector Freeze Suspends Gas Distribution Tender

Bolivia's hydrocarbons ministry has suspended a tender for four natural gas distribution concessions until after the national hydrocarbons referendum, a spokesperson for the hydrocarbons ministry told BNamericas.

The deadline to receive bids for the tender was May 27. "This tender has been suspended until after we get the results from the referendum," the spokesperson said.

The referendum is planned for July 18. Plans to award a contract to convert vehicles to compressed natural gas (CNG) have also been put on ice, the spokesperson said. "Actually the whole hydrocarbons sector is on standby until after the referendum.

Until we have a legal framework which allows us to move in these areas, the situation is a bit complicated, so the idea is to avoid these problems."

The government has not yet presented the new hydrocarbons bill to congress and President Carlos Mesa has decided to include a question about whether the existing hydrocarbons law should be changed in the referendum.

State oil company YPFB is continuing to carry out some pilot gas connection projects in the western part of the country, including the cities of La Paz and Potosi, the spokesperson said. The concessions aim to increase domestic gas consumption by providing connections for low-income Bolivians who would otherwise not be able to afford them.

The concessions cover four areas: La Paz, El Alto, Oruro and Potosi; Santa Cruz; Cochabamba; and Sucre. These areas already have a total of some 38,000 existing gas connections. Interested companies must offer to install a certain number of residential connections - a total of about 282,000 - in the first 10 years of the contract. The concessions would be for 30 years.

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