Bolivia Aims to Restructure Hydrocarbons Sector, Quell Unrest

Bolivia's hydrocarbons ministry will officially present its proposal to restructure the country's hydrocarbons sector from February 5-7 in capital La Paz, a ministry spokesperson told BNamericas.

The meeting will feature experts from Norway, Canada and Holland.

Among other aspects of the restructuring plan, the government will create a national hydrocarbons agency to regulate operations at state oil company YPFB.

The new Agencia Nacional de Hidrocarburos (ANH) will be independent of YPFB and will replace the current Superintendencia de Hidrocarburos regulator, the spokesperson said.

Under the government's plan to revamp YPFB, the company would have a strategic first level made up of six ministers and the country's president, government news agency ABI reported hydrocarbons minister Carlos Villegas as saying.

A second level would be comprised of four managerial departments associated with the hydrocarbons chain as well as legal and financial departments, while an operational third level would be made up of 15 sub-managerial departments located in hydrocarbons-producing regions.

The proposals were outlined to Chaco region residents in Yacuiba as a means to facilitate a dialogue to address residents' demands related to hydrocarbons and infrastructure, among other issues.

The meetings with Chaco residents are scheduled to take place February 8-10 in Villamontes, with technical teams set to meet on the first two days and then make public the results of the meetings on February 10, ABI said in a separate report.

Residents have called for the expropriation of marginal fields and the Cochabamba and Santa Cruz refineries.

Meanwhile, after four days of strikes, residents of Santa Cruz department town Camiri were invited by the government on February 1 to a dialogue. The community's civic committee was scheduled to meet late Friday afternoon to make its decision, the hydrocarbons ministry spokesperson said.

Camiri residents also are calling for the expropriation of marginal fields and refineries.

"We do not accept this demand because we have demonstrated with concrete facts that the government is recovering the property," Villegas said.

"We are in the process of recovering the property of oil companies Chaco and Andina, which hold 11 of the 14 marginal fields. The Bolivian state will administer and control these fields," the minister added.

Villegas added negotiations with Brazil's federal energy company Petrobras (NYSE: PBR) are ongoing for the recovery of the Cochabamba and Santa Cruz refineries.

Further, the residents have demanded the establishment of an E&P management office in Camiri. Villegas believes the company cannot be "deconstructed or divided" and hopes the sub-managerial departments included in the proposal will satisfy the demands, the spokesperson said.

Villegas could meet with the residents this weekend if the civic committee accepts the government's offer, although Villegas is planning a trip to Camiri on January 8 regardless to pitch a proposal related to YPFB's "semi-decentralized scheme."

Bolivia faces a growing rift between the east, which features La Paz and the seat of the government, and the country's hydrocarbons-producing west.

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