Natgas Investments to More than Double at Petrobras

Brazil's federal energy company Petrobras (NYSE: PBR) has more than doubled its budget for natural gas output, transport, sales and gas-fired power production to some US$17.9bn from January 2007-December 2011.

The new budget compares to US$8.2bn in the previous 2006-10 plan, company CEO Jose Gabrielli said in a webcast. The increased budget is part of Petrobras' new US$87.1bn 2007-11 strategic investment plan announced on June 30.

"Taking into account the whole natural gas chain and investment from partners, [investment in gas] could be even higher," Gabrielli said.

Petrobras plans to invest US$11bn, up from previous budget of US$3.6bn, in E&P for areas where the company will produce gas alone or associated with light crude.

Petrobras is developing eight projects in the Camau-Almada, Santos, Espirito Santo and Campos basins that would produce gas not associated with oil.

Another US$6.6bn of the budget will go toward downstream projects to allow the gas to be taken to market through pipelines. Most of the projects already have been announced, such as the 1,300km Gasene link and the expansion of existing pipeline networks in the country's northeastern and southeastern regions.

New projects designed to supply a fast-growing gas market include expanding the gas pipeline between Rio de Janeiro and the inland city of Belo Horizonte in Minas Gerais state. Another project entails expanding the southern stretch of the Bolivia-Brazil gas pipeline (B2B) as well as developing logistics to carry liquefied natural gas (LNG) in southern Brazil.

According to Petrobras projections, natural gas demand is expected to grow some 17.7% a year to 121 million cubic meters a day (Mm3/d) at the end of 2011 from today's 45Mm3/d.

"Petrobras will supply this demand, although some 20Mm3/d will be consumed by Petrobras itself," he said.

Of the 121Mm3/d the company plans to supply in 2011, 71Mm3/d will come from local production, 30Mm3/d from Bolivia through B2B and 20Mm3/d will be imported as LNG, Gabrielli said.

Bolivian imports are not expected to surpass the maximum B2B capacity of 30Mm3/d.

Brazil currently consumes around 45Mm3/d, of which some 26Mm3/d comes from Bolivia.

Not including Petrobras, project partners are expected to invest another US$4.5bn in projects including E&P and gas transport infrastructure.

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