BOGOTA (Dow Jones Newswires), Jun. 18, 2009

Colombia's state-controlled oil company, Ecopetrol SA (EC), and Chevron Corp. (CVX) currently export 300 million cubic feet of gas to Venezuela through the pipeline linking the Ballena gas field to Maracaibo, Ecopetrol's Chief Executive, Javier Gutierrez, said Wednesday.

The Venezuelan state-owned oil company Petroleos de Venezuela SA, or PdVSA, buys twice a much natural gas as originally agreed, Armando Zamora, the head of Colombia's oil and gas licensing agency, said.

He added Colombia may not need to import gas from Venezuela through the pipeline starting in 2012 as agreed.

PdVSA started buying 50 million cubic feet of gas of natural gas from Colombia through the 224-kilometer pipeline inaugurated in October 2007. Gradually, that amount grew to the current 300 million cubic feet a day.

The gas is produced in the Ballena field in Colombia's northern province of Guajira by Ecopetrol and Chevron.

PdVSA spent $467 million to build the pipeline to ship Colombian gas to Maracaibo. Venezuela needs to import natural gas, despite its own huge reserves, because it lacks infrastructure and sufficient investment in natural gas output. PdVSA injects the gas in its oil reservoirs to increase pressure and boost production. Venezuela also uses natural gas in its petrochemicals industry.

According to the contract, Ecopetrol and Chevron were to raise exports to 150 million cubic feet a day in 2009 and 2010, and then reduce them to 100 million cubic feet a day in 2011. PdVSA would start to export gas to Colombia through the pipeline after that.

The pipeline has a daily capacity of 500 million cubic feet of gas.  

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