LA PAZ – Bolivian state-owned energy company YPFB plans to invest $117 million to install 150,000 natural gas connections to homes in 2010, La Paz daily La Razon reported on Saturday.
The national director of YPFB’s gas networks division, Oscar Lopez, told the daily that the cost of the program will be covered with government and company funds.
Over the past several years, YPFB has installed 168,000 gas connections for homes, including 52,300 in 2009.
The home connections are a central plank in the energy policy of socialist President Evo Morales, who says use of the fuel to meet domestic demand should take priority over foreign markets.
YPFB plans to have 61 percent of the homes in El Alto, an impoverished suburb of La Paz, hooked up to gas networks by the end of 2010 and to achieve 100 percent coverage by 2011. That would make El Alto the first large Bolivian city in which all residents are serviced by gas networks.
The installation of an additional 150,000 connections will mean an increase in domestic gas consumption from 8 million cubic meters (282 million cubic feet) per day to roughly 9 million cmd.
According to figures from the Bolivian Hydrocarbons Chamber, total natural gas production in the country fell 12.76 percent to 36.65 million cmd this year, compared with 42.01 million cmd in 2008.
Gas exports to Brazil and Argentina also fell from an average of 33 million cmd in 2008 to an estimated 27.3 million cmd this year, primarily due to a decline in demand by the former.
Foreign energy companies such as Brazil’s Petrobras cut gas investment in Bolivia after Morales’ government mandated in 2006 that YPFB must have a majority stake in all of the country’s natural gas projects.
But a consortium led by Spain’s Repsol YPF announced last month that it plans to invest $1.5 billion to boost natural-gas production in Bolivia over the next five years.