San Diego-based Sempra Energy’s international unit was busy Thursday pushing and pulling in Latin America, trying to make things happen in its aggressive game plan south of the border.

The company snagged an operating permit in Chihuahua, becoming the first company, along with its Mexican partner, to meet its investment and customer goals under Mexico’s national program for awarding licenses to private companies to build and operate new natural gas distribution systems.

Sempra International and Proxima Gas SA de CV gained a national certificate for their joint venture EGOGAS Chihuahua from the Mexican equivalent of FERC — CRE (Energy Regulatory Commission). Since 1997 when the Sempra joint venture received licenses to distribute gas in Chihuahua and three other cities (Delicias, Chuhutemoc and Anahuac) the U.S. company has invested more than $50 million to deliver gas to about 51,000 families and businesses in Mexico.

Meanwhile farther south in Bolivia, South American business news sources reported this week that the president of Sempra Energy International, Darcel Hulse, was pressuring Bolivian government officials for a decision on a coastal natural gas facility to turn pipeline supplies into liquefied natural gas (LNG) for tanker shipment to a coastal receiving terminal on the North Baja Pacific Coast.

Sempra now has acquired land for the receiving terminal in North Baja that will then be connected by pipeline to major electric generation facilities and to large new interstate gas transmission pipelines. A joint venture affiliate, LNG Pacific, is seeking Bolivian approvals to go ahead with the project on the Bolivian end. It reportedly is prepared to spend up to $200 million this year with some of the early work on the project, which envisions LNG reaching North Baja sometime in the 2005-2007 time frame.

In Chihuahua, Mexico, which is 200 miles south of El Paso, TX, Hulse said Tuesday Sempra was “proud to have delivered on the promise” made years ago to bring natural gas to residents and businesses. “We have a firm commitment to continue working with officials and regulatory agencies to build new energy infrastructure of the highest caliber in Mexico, helping contribute to economic growth and raising the quality of life for many families.”

Sempra characterizes itself as a “pioneer” in the retail natural gas industry in Mexico, investing $650 million in energy infrastructure in the country since 1997 and operating with 350 full-time employees south of the U.S. border. It operates other gas distribution systems in Mexicali, La Laguna-Durango; supplies gas to a power plant in Rosarito, 30 miles south of Tijuana in North Baja; and on a joint venture basis is building the North Baja gas transmission pipeline from the Arizona-California border.

Along with the LNG plans, Sempra is building a natural gas-fired electric generation plant in Mexicali, and it has various energy projects it owns and operates in Argentina, Chile, Peru and Uruguay.

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