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Last Updated: July 2015

Overview


Map of Bolivia
Map of Bolivia
  • Hydrocarbons, primarily natural gas, are an important element of Bolivia's economy and account for 8% of the country's GDP. Bolivia's hydrocarbon exports accounted for 54% of total export revenue in 2014. The recent drop in oil prices caused Bolivia's energy export revenues to fall by nearly 1% to $6.57 billion in 2014 and is expected to negatively impact the amount of investment in hydrocarbon projects in Bolivia.
  • Traditional biomass is an important fuel for heating and cooking, especially for the 1.2 million Bolivians who lack access to electricity, according to the International Energy Agency's latest 2012 estimates. The electrification rate of 88% masks the disparity in urban and rural populations: more than 99% of city dwellers have access to electricity, compared to 66% of those living in rural areas. For those who have access to electricity, natural gas-fired plants and hydropower are the dominant sources of Bolivia's electricity supply.

Petroleum and other liquids

  • In 2014, Bolivia's petroleum and other liquids production were an estimated 67,000 barrels per day (b/d), while consumption was nearly 64,000 b/d as of 2014. The country has two oil refineries with a total crude oil distillation capacity of 52,350 b/d and meets most of its petroleum product consumption through domestic supply.
  • Bolivia is a net importer of petroleum and other liquids. Bolivia exported 13,000 b/d of crude oil in 2014, with nearly half sent to Argentina. At the same time, Bolivia imported over 22,000 b/d of refined petroleum products, mostly from Chile, Argentina, and the United States.

Natural gas

  • Foreign and domestic investment in the Bolivian hydrocarbon industry has enabled Bolivia's dry natural gas production to more than double in the past decade from 355 billion cubic feet (Bcf) in 2004 to 735 Bcf in 2013. Tarija, which accounts for 70% of Bolivia's natural gas production, is one of the most important regions to Bolivia's hydrocarbon sector because of its location near natural gas pipelines and its sizeable reserves.
  • Bolivia consumed just 113 Bcf in 2013 and exported the excess supply to neighboring countries through long-term contracts. Bolivia is increasing its industrial development, particularly for petrochemical and natural gas liquids production, and is anticipating greater gas demand over the next several years. The increase in natural gas production has enabled Bolivia to meet rising domestic demand as well as fulfill their exportation obligations.
  • Bolivia is a key supplier of natural gas to neighboring countries, Brazil and Argentina, via pipelines (392 Bcf annually to Brazil, and 191 Bcf annually to Argentina in 2014). Bolivia's natural gas exports have risen in tandem with the country's production over the past decade.
  • The Bolivia-Brazil natural gas pipeline (commonly referred to as GASBOL) is owned and operated by Gas TransBoliviano, of which YPFB Transporte, a state-owned Bolivian firm, has a majority stake. The pipeline has a maximum capacity of 1.1 Bcf per day. The YABOG pipeline, which runs from Río Grande, Bolivia, to Salta, Argentina, has a capacity of 210 million cubic feet (MMcf) per day. Argentina and Bolivia built another cross-border pipeline, known as Juana Azurduy, from the Margarita field in southern Bolivia to natural gas facilities in northern Argentina. The pipeline began operations in June 2011 and has a capacity of 953 MMcf per day of natural gas.
  • Bolivia is attempting to diversify its export markets by exploring the possibility of sending their natural gas into both Peru and Uruguay. By connecting with the Gasoducto Sur Peruano (Southern Peru Pipeline), currently under construction in Peru, and with the Uruguayan Port of Montevideo, landlocked Bolivia would be able to gain access to ports on both sides of South America and reach other export markets.

Oil and natural gas exploration

  • According to the Oil and Gas Journal, Bolivia had 210 million barrels of proved crude oil reserves as of January 2015, which ranks among the smallest reserve-holders in the world. Proved reserves of crude oil have dropped significantly from 465 million barrels in 2011. Bolivia's proved reserves of natural gas have also fallen from 26.5 Tcf in 2011 to the most recent estimate of 9.9 Tcf at the beginning of 2015. The natural decline of many Bolivian oil and gas fields and decreased investments in exploration efforts has contributed to the reserve decline.
  • However, the government claims that only 10% of the country has been explored for hydrocarbon resources. This leaves the possibility of discovering additional hydrocarbon reserves if exploration is increased.
  • Yacimientos Petrolíferos Fiscales Bolivianos (YPFB), Bolivia's national oil company, calls for Bolivia to to focus on exploration of new reserves by drilling 17 exploratory wells in 2015 and 2016. Beginning in 2015, YPFB and foreign oil companies plan to invest $12.17 billion in the next five years and aim to increase natural gas reserves by 1.5 Tcf in 2015.
  • Further increasing the ability of NOCs and IOCs to explore for hydrocarbon fields, President Evo Morales passed legislation in June of 2015 which allows exploration & production (E&P) in ecologically protected areas, such as the Madidi, Pilon Lajas and Isiboro Secure National Park and Indigenous Territory (TIPNIS).
  • Beyond domestic legislation, YPFB has signed memorandums of understanding with Brazilian Petrobras and Russian Gazprom to further develop natural gas resources in the Tarija regions well as other regions of the country. Beyond Tarija, Gazprom aims to produce hydrocarbon resources in their Azero and Carohuaicho blocks in Chuquisaca and Santa Cruz provinces, respectively.