Bolivian Consortium May Export LNG to West Coast

The gas-thirsty U.S. market is drawing comers from around the world, with another consortium at work to export Bolivian liquefied natural gas (LNG) to the U.S. West Coast. France's TotalFina Elf, Spain's Repsol YP, Britain's BP and British Gas, and Bolivia's Yacimientos Petroli feros Fiscales Bolivianos are considering plans to export some of the country's 6,000 Bcf in proven gas reserves to California markets.

While proposals are in the early stages, analysts estimate one U.S.-Bolivian LNG project would cost about $4 billion and take four or five years to complete. None of the companies released any financial details or timetables.

According to TotalFina, which has completed a study on the proposal, a pipeline could be built from Tarija in southern Bolivia to the Pacific port of Mejillones in northern Chile through the Andes Mountains. A LNG plant would be built in Mejillones to process the gas, which then would be shipped to Rosarito, Mexico in Baja California, below San Diego, where a regasification plant would pipe the gas into the United States. The Chilean route to Baja would be about 4,300 miles.

TotalFina holds large gas reserves in Bolivia, with a 15% stake in the San Antonia and San Alberto fields there, which are operated by Brazil's Petrobras. The San Alberto project ramped up in January, and is expected to produce up to 6 MMcf/d for export to Brazil, the company said.

Repsol operates a project in the same region, with partners BP and British Gas, in the Margarita gas field. Repsol said the Margarita field has proven, possible and probable reserve sufficient to "supply four LNG trains." The partners were to meet with Bolivian government officials last week to present the consortium's plans.

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