Venezuelan, Argentinian and Brazilian Officials to Continue Pipeline Talks

Officials from Venezuela, Brazil and Argentina plan to meet for the second time on Thursday in Rio de Janeiro to discuss the construction of a 10,000km natural gas pipeline that would link their three countries, Jorge Luis Sánchez, Venezuela's natural gas regulator Enagas president told BNamericas. The officials met in January in Caracas and will meet again there in March, Sánchez said, adding a firm date for the start of the project could be announced at the March meeting.

Investment in the project could range from US$17bn-25bn and construction take 5-7 years, according to previous BNamericas reports. Sánchez welcomed news that Brazil wants to accelerate plans for the construction of the pipeline, but cautioned the ambitious pipeline project is still at a very early stage. "If there is any mechanism allowing us to accelerate and reduce the timeframe [for the construction of the pipeline], it's welcome, that won't be a problem," Sánchez said.

The pipeline would help Brazil meet its growing gas demand and reduce dependence on imports from Bolivia, which currently account for about 60% of total daily consumption. "From the point of view of regional infrastructure, this is the most important project for South America in 10 years," news agency EFE quoted Brazil's energy and mines minister Silas Rondeau as saying.

The final decision on when construction for the pipeline will begin is up to the presidents of the three countries, Sánchez said.

Increasing usage of natural gas is one of the cornerstones of President Hugo Chávez's energy policy. Venezuela has some 150 trillion cubic feet of proven natural gas reserves, according to Enagas.

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