Bolivia Seeks To Cut Diesel Imports

(Argus, 11.Mar.2021) — Bolivia is laying out concrete plans for a hydrotreated vegetable oil (HVO) diesel plant that it hopes will replace 40pc of conventional diesel imports.

Hydrocarbons minister Franklin Molina told Argus that the government has finished conceptual engineering for the 8,200 b/d project and wants a front-end design and construction contract in place by September. The goal is to have the plant operating by 2024. Estimated investment is $250mn.

Apart from the green diesel, Molina lauds the potential to make other products such as bio jet fuel, known as SPK. The administration also sees environmental benefits from lower carbon emissions and job creation in the agriculture sector.

“This project will contribute to energy sovereignty. It is part of our policy to substitute imports and diversify our energy matrix,” said Molina.

Bolivia imported around 1.37mn m3 (23,500 b/d) of diesel in 2020. Even though last year’s imports plunged from 3.5mn m3 in 2019 because of the pandemic, they still cost close to $700mn, the minister said.

The government first plans to cut the imports by 15pc by promoting LNG use in vehicles. Once the HVO plant is operational, the two fuel alternatives should combine to slash diesel imports by more than 50pc.

Bolivia’s top sources of imported diesel in 2020 were Argentina with a 21pc share, Chile 19pc, the US 15pc and Peru 14pc, according to the private-sector foreign trade institute.

The proposed HVO plant would be built next to Bolivian state-owned YPFB’s 24,000 b/d Guillermo Elder Bell oil refinery in eastern Santa Cruz department.

HVO projects are just starting to crop up in South America. The first large commercial project will be built by Brazil’s ECB Group in Paraguay, the region’s other landlocked nation and one of Bolivia’s neighbors. Construction of the $800mn plant is supposed to start this year, with production in 2024.

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By Lucien Chauvin