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Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Gazprom considers role in pipeline to link Panama, S. America

MOSCOW, September 12 (RIA Novosti) - Russia's Gazprom is considering taking part in the construction of a natural gas pipeline linking Panama with South America, the state-owned energy giant said Tuesday. The project was the focus of a meeting between Gazprom chief Alexei Miller and Panama's deputy trade and industry minister, Manuel Jose Paredes Tuesday. Miller and Paredes discussed Gazprom's participation in the construction of the infrastructure for the pipeline's maintenance. Panama, a major fruit producer, as well as an offshore financial and tourist center, lacks its own hydrocarbon resources. Imported oil accounts for 25% of its electricity output, with the rest being generated by hydropower plants and alternative energy sources. Panama has a developed oil infrastructure, which includes a pipeline that crosses the country from Columbia, and its storage facilities can accommodate a total of 16.9 million barrels. The country is also considering building a refinery to receive Mexican crude. The gas pipeline from Venezuela and across Columbia will eventually be extended to reach terminals in Panama, whose canal connects the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. While working to boost its presence in Europe, Gazprom is also increasingly looking to Latin American markets. The focus is on cooperation talks with Brazil, Argentina and Venezuela, who plan to build a transcontinental pipeline, which will also cross Bolivia. They are therefore interested in Gazprom's valuable expertise in laying long-distance pipelines. Venezuela and Brazil have made unofficial overtures to Gazprom, which in turn has suggested carrying out feasibility studies for the multinational project. Gazprom has 35 years of experience in geological prospecting and gas production. Its pipe-laying expertise is also considerable. Last year alone, the concern put into service 1,400 kilometers of long-distance pipelines and feeder branches, and built eight large compressor stations and underground facilities. Gazprom in turn is interested in the countries' liquefied gas production expertise.

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