Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Suriname/Venezuela gas pipeline note

Venezuela proposes gas pipeline to Suriname

By Ivan Cairo
Caribbean Net News Suriname Correspondent

PARAMARIBO, Suriname: The government of Venezuela has proposed the construction of a gas pipeline from Venezuela to Suriname, government officials here confirmed Tuesday. The pipeline is projected to run over the sea bed with a bifurcation to Guyana.

Speaking to local journalists, Energy Minister, Gregory Rusland, said that Venezuela president Hugo Chavez made the proposal recently after the Suriname government informed Caracas of its plans to increase energy production in the country.

Currently experts of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Energy here and officials from state-owned oil company Staatsolie are exploring whether this project is economically feasible. Experts from Venezuela are also collecting more data on the project.

During the next PetroCaribe Summit later this year the Venezolan government will further explain the proposal.

“We will examine the possible benefits this proposal could have for the economic development of Suriname,” said minister Rusland, adding that the country is currently implementing its own exploration activities offshore and if “lucky we won’t need a gas pipeline from another country”.

The feasibility study to establish the pipeline will cost some US$3 million. Asked whether Suriname will actively participate in Caracas’ PetroCaribe oil initiative, the government minister noted that this is highly unlikely. Last week, President Ronald Venetiaan already hinted at Suriname’s opting out of the deal with Venezuela.

Rusland argued that importing heavy fuel from Venezuela would be detrimental to state-owned Staatsolie, which is already producing heavy fuel for local industries, while most of the production is being exported.

“We have all the time maintained that Suriname is in a slightly different position than several other Caricom nations since we have our own local oil industry. Since costs in the energy sector worldwide are very high and increasing steadily, we have to be very cautious not to get trapped in an uncontrollable situation, because before you know it you have an enormous energy bill to pay to another country.” he further argued.

Also logistics issues played a significant role in the government’s decision not to pursue the PetroCaribe initiative further.

Meanwhile, Suriname is also looking to other options for its energy needs. Intentions to build a hydro-powerhouse in West-Suriname are still intact, while the government is also exploring ways to establish projects in the field of renewable energies.

Agriculture Minister Kermechend Raghoebarsing confirmed that a US company is interested in establishing a bio-fuel plant here with sugar cane as resource. En marge of the recently held Washington International Renewable Energy Conference (WIREC-2008) in the US, the minister met with delegates of the Inter-American Development Bank to discuss possible assistance in financing renewable energy projects in Suriname.

For the near future follow-up discussions with the IDB on this issue are being planned, Raghoebarsing told reporters.

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