BOGOTA, Oct 18 (Reuters) - Colombia approved the export of natural gas to Panama and other countries in the Caribbean on Tuesday, expanding an export market that had been limited to Venezuela in order to ensure domestic supply.
The change was likely to benefit state-run oil company Ecopetrol , U.S. oil major Chevron Corp , Canada’s Pacific Rubiales and Colombia’s Equion Energia Ltd, Energy Minister Mauricio Cardenas told a news conference.
The new law was aimed at encouraging companies to increase exploration for reserves and invest in liquefaction and pipeline infrastructure, Cardenas said.
Colombia’s underdeveloped natural gas industry had only been allowed to export 200 million cubic feet per day to neighboring Venezuela. Exports to Venezuela will continue under the new rules.
“Colombia can now begin to play a very important role because of recent increases in its production potential and enough leeway in its reserves to assure the needs of consumers,” Cardenas said.
The newly approved exports would continue only as long as there was at least eight years’ worth of natural gas available domestically.
“Today we have 15 years of proven and probable reserves, which gives us the sufficient flexibility to open the possibility of exportation to producers,” Cardenas said.
Gas production was 1.09 billion cubic feet per day in 2010.
Colombia’s oil and coal production has boomed in recent years, thanks to increased security and an economy left relatively undamaged by the global financial crisis.