Leaders Urge Bolivia to Take Part in Regional Gas Pipeline Project

The presidents of Brazil, Argentina and Venezuela have reiterated their invitation for Bolivia to participate in the construction of a regional natural gas pipeline network stretching 10,000km from Venezuela to Argentina across Brazil, Brazil's mines and energy ministry said in a statement.

The project would require investments of US$17bn-25bn, the statement said.

The pipeline, which could take six years to build and would have capacity to transport 150 million cubic meters of gas a day, was one of the main issues discussed in a meeting between Brazil's President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez and Argentina's President Nestor Kirchner in Brasilia on January 19.

The energy ministers of each country were also present at the meeting, a spokesperson at Brazil's mines and energy ministry told BNamericas.

The three countries had agreed in December to create workgroups to study the feasibility of the gas pipeline that could also include other countries.

Bolivia and Uruguay have both been invited to participate, the former because of its large natural gas reserves and the latter because of its demand for gas.

"There is talk of including another six countries in the project [including Bolivia and Uruguay]," the mines and energy spokesperson said, declining to give details.

The workgroups are studying the economic and technical feasibility of the project as well as its possible financing.

Brazil, Argentina and Venezuela also decided to form a new committee to study the political implications of pipeline construction.

According to Brazil's mines and energy ministry, the project would allow Venezuela to increase its natural gas exports significantly and help meet Brazil's growing natural gas demand for power generation and other uses.

Chavez suggested that social development centers could be built along the pipeline route that would include industry, agriculture and housing construction, Brazil's federal government's news service Agencia Brasil reported.

Bolivia's new president Evo Morales of the leftist MAS party takes office this Sunday.

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