Tractebel Studying 1,150km Gas Pipeline Interconnection

Belgian energy company Tractebel is studying the feasibility of a US$400mn, 1,150km gas pipeline to bring gas from Peru's Camisea project to Chile and northern Argentina, Chile's energy and economy minister Jorge Rodríguez told reporters.

The pipeline would transport some 23 million cubic meters a day (Mm3/d) of gas from Pisco in Peru to Tocopilla in northern Chile, Rodríguez said on the sidelines of an oil and gas conference in La Jolla California May 16-17.

Of this amount, about 5Mm3/d would be consumed in Chile's northern power grid (SING) and the remaining 18Mm3/d would be re-exported to Argentina through the existing GasAtacama and NorAndino pipelines, Rodríguez said.

Tractebel owns NorAndino and northern Chilean power generators Electroandina and Edelnor. GasAtacama is owned 50:50 by local power generator Endesa and US-based CMS Energy.

Edelnor chairman Jan Flachet was quoted in local press as saying that Tractebel would wrap up feasibility studies on the pipeline in June. GasAtacama and NorAndino currently transport gas from northern Argentina to Chile, "but they are currently pretty empty," Rodríguez said, referring to recent gas export restrictions from Argentina that have affected volumes on all four pipelines that transport gas across the Andes. "We can use [the pipelines] in reverse. Instead of bringing gas from Argentina to Chile we can bring gas to Chile from Peru and also send gas to the Argentines that need it," Rodríguez said.

Reversing the flow on the two existing pipelines would require an unspecified amount of investment in compressor motors and strengthening the pipeline in Argentina that would transport the gas to Buenos Aires, Rodríguez said. Construction of the Pisco-Tocopilla pipeline would take less than a year, but would require environmental and other permits first, Rodríguez said. "The construction is very easy because it's flat desert terrain, so there are no engineering difficulties," he added.

Argentina's federal planning minister Julio De Vido has responded positively to the idea and Argentina's President Néstor Kirchner is "very excited that this could happen, because if it does it's good news, everyone wins," Rodríguez said.

Peru is also in talks to export liquefied natural gas (LNG) from the Camisea project to a proposed LNG re-gasification terminal to be built at the port of Quillota in central Chile to supply gas to the central SIC grid, Rodríguez said. "We haven't closed any deal with [Peru] to sell gas to us or to Argentina, but it's a possibility," Rodríguez said.


In return for gas from Camisea, Chile could export electricity to Peru through a proposed 50km transmission line from Arica in Chile to Tacna in southern Peru, according to Rodríguez. "I don't know how many megawatts it would be because our system has a different cycle from Peru," he said.

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