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Bolivian gas now flows to Brazil

Brazilian president Fernando Henrique Cardoso and his Bolivian counterpart, Hugo Banzer, officially opened a 3,146 km natural gas pipeline between their countries last February, culminating a 25-year process of negotiations and planning.

The $1.7 billion project, which is partly financed by a $240 million loan from the IDB, will help meet Brazil's growing energy needs well into the next millennium, transporting up to 30 million cubic meters of gas per day to industrial and residential centers.

The pipeline, described as one of the largest civil engineering projects ever undertaken in Latin America, is still under construction. The north branch, spanning 1,966 km from gas fields in central Bolivia to Campinas in Brazil, is now operational. The 1,180 km southern branch, which will take gas from Campinas to the city of Porto Alegre, is scheduled for completion in October. The pipeline will have intermediate distribution points in São Paulo, Curitiba, Florianópolis, and other cities.

Estimates indicate that Bolivia will earn some $1.6 billion over the next 20 years from gas sales to Brazil. Those revenues will provide sorely needed funds for social programs and other public investments while helping to balance Bolivia's trade deficit with Brazil.

Some 540,000 tons of 32-inch to 16-inch pipe, buried one meter underground, will have been employed when the pipeline is completed. The project will enable Brazil to achieve its strategic plan of diversifying energy sources to include the cleanest of fossil fuels, helping to meet the expanding needs of its industrial south and reducing the use of high-sulfur fuel oil.

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