* Bolivia piping more natural gas into Argentina
* Less need to bring costly LNG in by ship
* Argentina wants to eliminate energy imports altogether
* Yearly LNG import bill pressures trade surplus
(Adds details throughout)
By Karina Grazina
BUENOS AIRES, Aug 13 Argentina will buy about 30
percent less liquefied natural gas than originally expected this
year due mainly to rising fuel imports from neighboring Bolivia,
a source at state energy company ENARSA said on Monday.
Latin America's No. 3 economy, Argentina has seen its energy
import bills spike while its own oil and gas output has fallen
in recent years - prompting the controversial state takeover of
top energy company YPF earlier this year.
A mild Southern Hemisphere winter and slowing economic
growth this year are also reducing demand for the costly LNG
imports that have dented Argentina's trade surplus, a key source
of dollars used by the government to repay debt.
"Of the 80 cargos that were first estimated, only 70 percent
will be purchased," said the source, who asked not to be named.
"The main reason is the increase in gas being piped in from
YPFB," the ENARSA source added, referring to Bolivia's state
energy company. "W e have also had a mild winter, which has
reduced domestic household consumption."
Argentina has already lined up 54 of the 56 LNG cargos it
plans to buy this year, said the source at ENARSA, which is in
charge of the country's liquefied gas imports.
Analysts say the bill for energy imports will not reach the
roughly $12 billion initially forecast for this year but it will
still easily top the $9.4 billion spent in 2011.
Domestic natural gas output has fallen 15 percent since 2004
while demand has boomed along with the country's economy.
In July, grains exporting powerhouse Argentina signed an
interruptible contract with Bolivia's YPFB for up to 2.67
million cubic meters of natural gas to be piped across the
border per day - which is cheaper than importing LNG.
That came in addition to a long-term, take-or-pay contract
under which Argentina gets 13 million cubic meters in
uninterrupted supply per day.
President Cristina Fernandez justified the expropriation of
YPF on the grounds that Argentina must regain energy
self-sufficiency. The company's new management wants to invest
$7 billion per year in production capacity.
Spain's Repsol, the previous majority owner of YPF,
canceled 10 shipments of LNG to Argentina after the Fernandez
administration seized a 51-percent stake in the company three
months ago. ENARSA says those shipments have been replaced by
(Reporting by Karina Grazina; Writing by Hugh Bronstein;
Editing by Lisa Von Ahn and Marguerita Choy)