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Colombia unveils US$2bn gas expansion plan

Colombia will require natural gas infrastructure investments of at least US$2bn over the next decade to meet rising demand for the fossil fuel, a new government report shows.

The figure includes US$1.22bn in pipeline projects and US$861mn in regasification facilities, according to the latest version of Colombia’s 15-year natural gas supply plan.

Key developments include an expansion of the SPEC regasification terminal in Cartagena and the construction of the long-delayed Pacific LNG terminal in Buenaventura.

It also lists eight key pipeline projects, including the proposed Jobo-Medellín connection that was scrapped by Canadian firm Canacol last year.

“In general, the development of national production is prioritized,” the report said, adding that there was a need to “strategically expand and diversify connectivity between the interior of the country and the Atlantic coast.”

The report, published by energy ministry planning unit UPME, called for regulatory bodies and policymakers to provide the market with the necessary “signals” to attract investments in exploration, production and transport projects, in addition to liquefied natural gas (LNG) import initiatives.

DEMAND

Under a medium scenario, Colombian natural gas demand is expected to increase 0.4% annually until 2032, rising to 1.5% per year from 2032 to 2038, according to the report.

It added that demand is expected to reach 1,223BBTU/d (billion British thermal units a day) by December 2038.

“This demand scenario will be the main reference used during the assessment and modeling of

infrastructure capacities,” the report said.

UPME warned that temporary gas shortages could occur as soon as 2027 if new supply sources are not secured.

In addition to ramping up gas production from local fields, new import infrastructure will be required, it said. Colombia’s only current gas import facility is the SPEC terminal in Cartagena, which has a regasification capacity of 400Mf3/d (million cubic feet a day).

“It is estimated that by the start of 2025, decisions will need to be made in this regard due to the time involved in carrying out engineering studies, structuring documents for the selection of an investor and the construction time,” the document said.

The report appears to allay fears of imminent gas shortages, in contrast to a forecast from state oil company Ecopetrol.

In November, Ecopetrol CEO Ricardo Roa said Colombia faced a natural gas deficit of 31BBTU/d in 2024, 131BBTU/d in 2025 and 150-200BBTU/d in 2026.

PROJECTS

The biggest transport project listed in the expansion plan is the 300km Jobo-Medellín pipeline, earmarked for investments of US$483mn. It is followed by the following pipelines: Medellín-Mariquita (US$261mn), Mariquita-Bogotá (US$209mn) and SNT-Cúcuta (US$134mn).

The list also includes four compressor projects – in Jobo, Medellín, Mariquita and Cúcuta – each of which is budgeted at US$34mn.

Capital expenditure for LNG import projects is slated at US$351mn for floating storage and regasification infrastructure and US$510mn for onshore developments.

In total, UPME recommended 24 projects with varying degrees of importance and urgency. The entity

also underlined the importance of pipeline conversion projects that would allow existing oil ducts to be repurposed for gas.

“The use of existing infrastructure assets for their conversion optimizes times and construction costs without generating the social and environmental impacts that new hydrocarbon transportation infrastructure entails,” it said.

VENEZUELA DOUBTS

The report appeared to cast doubt over Colombia’s plans to import gas from Venezuela via a disused 224km pipeline.

Officials have said the pipeline is on track to start delivering 50Mf3/d to Colombia from Venezuelan gas fields by December.

“UPME has approached different sector agents and government entities in order to obtain detailed information regarding the project, however, this input is not yet available,” the report said.

It also raised concerns about the dilapidated state of the pipeline, which has been out of service since 2015, and uncertainty regarding Venezuelan production.

“In addition to the technical conditions of the transport infrastructure, it is necessary to consider the current production conditions and the quality with which natural gas is produced in Venezuela,” the report added.

The expansion plan, which can be seen here, is available for public comment until February 29.

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