October 12, 2007 / 5:08 PM / 12 years ago

Venezuela and Colombia inaugurate gas pipeline

BALLENAS, Colombia, Oct 12 (Reuters) - Venezuela and Colombia on Friday inaugurated a 140-mile (225-km) natural gas pipeline linking Colombian gas fields to Venezuela’s gas-deficient western region.

The pipeline will transport 150 million cubic feet per day of natural gas to Venezuela to boost available supply for state oil company PDVSA and advance Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez’s regional energy integration efforts.

Chavez, Colombian President Alvaro Uribe and Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa met in Colombia’s sweltering Guajira province near Venezuela’s frontier for a symbolic opening of a valve to start the flow of gas.

“This is the integration we need,” said Chavez in a speech following the inauguration.

U.S.-based Chevron Corp (CVX.N) and Colombian state oil company Ecopetrol in May signed a sales contract with PDVSA to provide the natural gas from fields it operates jointly with Ecopetrol.

Western Venezuela suffers from a shortage of natural gas which restricts development of the nation’s petrochemical industry, one of Chavez’s top priorities.

It also forces some of PDVSA’s facilities, such as the giant 960,000 barrel per day (bpd) Paraguana refining complex, to burn liquid fuels instead of cheaper natural gas.

Venezuela plans to import gas from Colombia for four to seven years and then reverse the flow so that Venezuela would export gas to Colombia as new projects come online.

Venezuelan authorities also plan to expand the line to Central America.

But one local analyst, who asked not to be named to avoid drawing his company into controversy, said PDVSA’s ambitious plans for new petrochemical projects make it unlikely that it will be able to export to Colombia.

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