The Bolivian government has rejected predictions that the country will cease to be an exporter of natural gas and become a net importer by 2030. The government has said it has plans to invest some US$ 325 million in exploration and extraction in new wells by the country's hydrocarbons company, YPFB, Yacimientos Petroliferos Federales de Bolivia.
Fears arose from Sao Paulo, since YPFB is currently Brazil's largest external gas supplier, taking some 30% of the Liquefied natural gas produced by Bolivia and transported through the Brazil/Bolivia Gas Pipeline. At one time Bolivia would send Brazil some 30 million cubic meters a day of LNG, but the volume since May 2022, is now down to 20 million per day
Given the situation and the possibility of a lack of Bolivian supply on the horizon, Brazil's oil giant Petrobras has accelerated the completion of Route 3 of the pre-salt gas pipeline and is looking for alternatives with other producers, such as those in Argentina.
La Paz admits that “between 2015 and 2016,” there was a decrease in output. From January to November 2022, Bolivia exported US$ 2.75 billion in gas, with Brazil its largest buyers. After that, however, sales have been declining.
According to a study by the consultancy Wood Mackenzie, gas production in Bolivia will not even be enough in a few years to supply domestic consumption.
“We are going to invest heavily in something that will transform the production of natural gas in Bolivia, with one of the greatest efforts in our country’s history, which will allow us to find new mega fields,” YPFB president Dorgathen Tapia said in a note in response to the Wood Mackenzie study. The state-owned company is preparing to explore 32 prospected areas in Bolivia’s south and east.
“Saying we’re out of gas is a miscalculation,” Tapia continued. “Despite the natural decline in production, this situation is about to be reversed as we start drilling new wells and discovering other reservoirs. We’re working on it,” said YPFB’s president.
Wood Mackenzie, however, reports that the latest operations have been unsuccessful. In 2021, the state-owned company planned to explore 20 wells in the country, but it drilled only 3 – and they were all dry.
“Our research indicates that operators have reduced their spending in Bolivia due to failed campaigns to increase production, especially in already established fields,” Wood Mackenzie said in response to a written inquiry.
“Furthermore, more recent efforts have not shown the desired results. Two or three high-potential exploration wells failed,” the consultancy added.
According to analysts at the British consultancy, total gas exports from Bolivia have fallen by approximately 40% since 2015. “We expect declining rates at this pace in the short term,” analyzed Wood Mackenzie, noting that domestic gas demand in Bolivia tends to grow in the same period.