Ramirez: Next Gas Pipeline Meeting June 5-7

The technical teams evaluating the feasibility of the natural gas pipeline that will connect Venezuela to Brazil will meet in Caracas from June 5-7, according to Rafael Ramirez, Venezuela's state oil firm PDVSA president and energy and oil minister.

Ramirez announced the upcoming meeting after he met for several hours on Tuesday with Brazil's energy minister Silas Rondeau and federal energy company Petrobras president Sergio Gabrielli.

A definitive announcement regarding pipeline construction had been widely expected from the Tuesday meeting, but news of a new lower level meeting only showed the project is far from guaranteed. While Venezuela and Brazil keep on pushing the pipeline project, Bolivia has voiced resistance, a situation that only worsened when President Evo Morales nationalized the country's hydrocarbons industry last week, hurting Petrobras' economic interests there. After several meetings, both ministerial and presidential, there has still been no formal announcement as to when construction will start.

Bolivia will take part in the meetings, the president of Venezuela's natural gas promotion entity (Enagas), Jorge Luis Sanchez, told BNamericas. The meeting will be the first that Bolivian officials have attended on the subject of the Venezuela-Argentina pipeline.

Venezuela has more than ample reserves to meet the commitment such a project would entail, some 5bn cubic feet a day, Sanchez said, dismissing Venezuelan media reports that Brazilian authorities have requested independent certification of Venezuela's natural gas reserves.

Sanchez stood by figures disclosed earlier this year of 150 trillion cubic feet in proven reserves, but added that Venezuela would not object to certification. "By the year 2008, without offshore effort, only with mainland production, we can sustain that [export demand]", he added.

Early estimates disclosed by Venezuelan authorities have put the project cost at some US$25bn, with initial shipments of 5 billion cubic feet a day of Venezuelan natural gas. The pipeline, which will be 8,000-15,000km long, depending on the final route, will take up to seven years to build.

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