By Mike McDonald
GUATEMALA CITY Jan 18 Mexican state oil company
Pemex and Guatemala will build a $1.2 billion, 600-kilometer
(370-mile) gas pipeline linking the two countries and giving
local manufacturers access to cheaper energy, a Guatemalan
presidential spokesman said on Saturday.
Presidents from both countries will sign a bilateral accord
at the World Economic Forum in Davos next week agreeing to the
construction of the pipeline, between Salina Cruz, Mexico and
the southern department of Escuintla, Guatemala, said Francisco
Cuevas, a spokesman for the Guatemalan presidency.
Pemex will build 420 kilometers and Guatemala will build the
remaining 180 kilometers, Cuevas said, adding that Guatemala
plans to open the project to bidding this year and that the
pipeline should be operational by 2016.
"The construction puts the focus on the transport of gas
from Mexico to Guatemala," Cuevas said. "It's a fundamental step
for the country."
Pemex declined to comment.
Home to roughly 15 million people, Guatemala does not
produce natural gas. Cuevas said the pipeline will give
Guatemalan manufacturers access to cheap Mexican gas, allowing
them to become more competitive.
Guatemala's energy sector is small, but the government has
been looking to expand it. Last year, on a visit to Guatemala,
Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim expressed an interest in
investing in oil and natural gas exploration in the Central
Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto last month signed a
bill into law that ended the country's 75-year-old oil and gas
monopoly. Under the new legislation, which is still being mapped
out, foreign companies will be able to enter the sector,
bringing expertise and efficiency to the ailing Pemex.