As the poorest and least-developed nation in Latin America, Bolivia is in dire need of the investment capital that could be offered through privatization of various state companies, foreign investment, and expansion of the oil and gas industry. Oil and gas production from Bolivia’s largest fields has begun to decline, and the government lacks the funds required to maintain production. As a result, the government is considering legislation designed to establish a more balanced participation between Yacimientos Petroliferos Fiscales Bolivianos (YPFB) and foreign contractors. President Sanchez de Lozada, elected in June 1993, is committed to privatizing many industries, including oil and gas, and hopes to attract $6 billion US in investment during his four year term.

Bolivia’s proven oil reserves are 110 million barrels, and current production is approximately 21,000 BOPD, yielding an oil reserves life of approximately 15 years. The United States Geological Survey (USGS) estimates that Bolivia’s undiscovered reserve potential is 0.5 billion barrels of oil. This estimate appears to be highly pessimistic, as it does not assign much potential to large unexplored regions of the country. Since Bolivia’s oil supply/demand situation is fairly well balanced, any significant increase in production would be available for export.

Bolivia’s proven natural gas reserves are 6.0 TCF, and current production is approximately 500 MMCF/D, yielding a reserves life of 33 years. The USGS estimates undiscovered gas reserve potential at 7.8 TCF. Approximately 210 MMCF/D of the current production is exported to Argentina. A 2,233 kilometre trans-Brazil gas pipeline has been approved, and will guarantee an immense new market for Bolivian gas. Gas production is scheduled to commence at 280 MMCF/D increasing to 500 MMCF/D after seven years. Although the pipeline route is still under discussion, the gas purchase-sale contract between YPFB and Petrobras (national oil company of Brazil) was signed in February 1993, and the project appears certain to proceed.

Approximately 580,000 km2 of Bolivia (slightly under half the area of the Western Canadian Sedimentary Basin) are covered by prospective sedimentary basins. Producing regions in the Southern Subandean and the western part of the Chaco Basin are, at most, partly mature, with only one exploration well per 500 km2 (compared to one exploration well drilled per 12 km2 in Alberta). Bolivia’s exploration well density Over all of Bolivia’s sedimentary basins, there is an average of one exploration well per 2,900 km2.

At least four types of (petroleum) investment opportunities are available in Bolivia:

  • Exploration for 15 to 50 million barrel discoveries using modern seismic techniques and thrust fold models in the southern part of the Southern Subandean and the Boomerang Hills (particularly to the north).

  • Field development projects involving: horizontal drilling to improve production and drainage efficiency, water flooding, and infill drilling.

  • Purchasing reserves from Yacimientos Petroliferos Fiscales Bolivianos (YPFB).

  • Exploration for giant fields in the Northern Subandean Basin, and deeper targets in the Madre de Dios Basin and the southern part of the Altiplano Basin. Large undrilled structures, oil seeps, a non-commercial oil discovery (Madre de Dios Basin), and large open acreage blocks present attractive exploration opportunities.

For more information contact:

Leslie Sears
Petrel Robertson Consulting Ltd.
500, 736- 8th Avenue S.W.
Calgary, Alberta
T2P 1H4

Phone: (403) 218-1618
Fax: (403) 262-9135

This summary, part of Petrel Robertson’s 1995 summary of exploration and development opportunities in 31 countries around the world, has not been updated. Some of the information, particularly relating to political and economic issues, is thus out of date. It is included, however, to demonstrate the breadth and depth of Petrel’s work in each of these nations.

Copyright © 2014 Petrel Robertson Consulting Ltd.