Venezuela-Southern Cone Gas Pipeline Discussions Advance

The multilateral committee studying the proposed Venezuela-Brazil-Argentina gas pipeline project held its first official meeting on January 12 in Caracas ahead of a presidential meeting this week to discuss the project, Venezuela's state oil firm PDVSA said in a press release.

PDVSA president and energy and oil minister Rafael Ramírez said the proposed pipeline connecting Venezuela with neighboring Brazil and continuing to Argentina could cost US$17bn-20bn and take 5-7 years to build.

Representatives of the three countries that met last week agreed to recommend to their respective energy ministers they invite other South American countries to join the project.

Venezuela's President Hugo Chávez and his Argentine and Brazilian counterparts Néstor Kirchner and Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva are scheduled to meet in Brasília on Thursday to discuss the development of the project.

The three leaders signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) in Uruguay on December 9, 2005, to develop the project as a solution to rising natural gas demand in the Southern Cone of South America.

A number of subcommittees have been appointed by the multilateral committee to study such key matters as the project's marketing, financing options, engineering and environmental impact.

These technical committees will meet again in Argentina (January 30-February 1), Brazil (February 15-16) and again in Venezuela (March 7-9), the statement said.

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