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17 Feb, 2009 07:42

Gas deals the focus of Bolivian leader's Moscow trip

The visit of Bolivian President, Evo Morales, to Moscow highlighted the country’s gas production potential. Bolivia has major reserves but is looking for investors after it nationalised its energy sector two years ago.

The first visit by a Bolivian Head of State to Moscow, the meeting of the two leaders was accompanied by the signing of trade deals – key among them agreements gas exploration. Russian President Medvedev noted the strategic significance of the agreements.

“Russia will support its Bolivian friends in hydrocarbons development and building a gas transport system on Bolivian territory. Large-scale consultations were organised – and memorandums signed with Gazprom. This is a strategic project, which should last until 2030.”

The country holds Latin America's second largest gas reserves, comparable only to Venezuela- boasting reserves of 750 billion cubic meters,

Like Venezuela, it nationalised its energy sector. But that's led to an exodus of foreign investment, and Bolivia produces only a fraction of its reserves – just 15 billion cubic meters annually.

Konstantin Simonov, Director, National Energy Securities Fund says replacing the investment is a priority

“It's not an easy project, for example in Bolivia and Venezuela, the price of production will be not so cheap. Because of this Bolivarian revolution there is a withdrawal of some foreign companies and that is why they need some other investors.”

With so much to gain, Gazprom is already in talks to participate in Bolivia and Venezuela's state gas venture, Petroandina, regarding a stake in the company. Last December, Bolivia's energy minister said Gazprom could help build a pipeline linking Bolivia to its Southern neighbor, Argentina.

Russia remains key to the landlocked country's plans to boost foreign investment this year to $530 million. Despite its underground riches, Bolivia will still need to rely heavily on its Northern ally to start to heat up its frozen energy sector.