Bolivia has negotiated a new natural gas price with Argentina after pointing out that it buys the fuel from Chile at a much higher price.
Argentina’s energy agency, IEASA, released its new numbers on Thursday indicated that it will purchase natural gas from Bolivia at US$6.49 per thousand BTUs (British thermal units) between July and at least September.
The new price was negotiated after Bolivia’s Minister of Hydrocarbons, Luis Alberto Sanchez, pointed out this week that Argentina was only paying US$6 per thousand Btu, compared to US$10 per thousand Btu it pays to Chile. The minister added that Argentina is two months late on its April and May gas payment, owing US$ 255 million to Bolivia for natural gas consumption during those months.
“We cannot squander our gas,” Sanchez said after a cabinet meeting on Wednesday. “Our gas has a price.” The official said this disparity seemed unfair.
“We can work on opening the contract up,” added the minister saying that La Paz is willing to “negotiate new volumes, but with better prices” prior to the newly brokered deal.
Sanchez said in an interview on Tuesday, "the decisions taken from the central government are for the benefit of Bolivians, and in each contract, we have been improving prices. ... We will export more gas to Argentina when it is more beneficial for Bolivians."
Bolivia's daily production is estimated at 59 million cubic meters of gas per day with reserves of up to 11 trillion cubic feet, according to its Ministry of Hydrocarbons, making it one of the largest natural gas reserves in the world.
Bolivian president Evo Morales had said that its hydrocarbon sector is experiencing its "most important" moment in terms of production and has a surplus to sell Argentina but at better prices. On Thursday he announced that the administration will invest US$2.5 billion, up from $US 100 million last year.
No word on whether Argentina has squared away its energy debt with Bolivia.
Meanwhile, Argentina’s Energy Minister Javier Iguacel announced this week that starting in October his country will "be able to export (natural gas) to Chile." Iguacel met last Monday with his Chilean counterpart, Susana Jimenez to discuss transporting natural gas from the Argentine’s Neuquen basin to Chile within several months.