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Last Updated: December 2016

Overview


Map of Chile
Map of Chile
  • Chile is the only member of the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) in South America. It is the fifth-largest consumer of energy on the continent, but unlike most other large economies in the region, it is only a minor producer of fossil fuels. Therefore, Chile is heavily dependent on energy imports.

Petroleum and other liquids

  • According to Oil & Gas Journal (OGJ), at the beginning of 2016, Chile held 150 million barrels of crude oil reserves, which are relatively low levels in Central and South America. Chile produced negligible amounts of oil in 2015.
  • Chile imported over 304,000 barrels per day (b/d) of oil in 2015, split between refined petroleum products (approximately 150,000 b/d) and crude oil (167,000 b/d). Imported crude oil, as well as a small amount of domestic oil supply (13,000 b/d), is processed in three refineries owned by the state-owned Empresa Nacional del Petróleo (ENAP), with a total capacity of 233,150 b/d, as of 2015.
  • Traditionally, most of Chile’s crude oil imports originated in other South American countries, particularly Brazil, Ecuador, Colombia, Peru and Argentina. In 2015, Brazil and Ecuador exported the vast majority (98%) of crude oil supply to Chile and supplanted lost shares from Colombia, Argentina, and Peru during the past few years. However, the United States is Chile’s leading source of refined petroleum product imports.
  • Chile has done exploratory drilling in the Magallanes Basin, a shale formation, to increase their domestic oil supply. There is an estimated 2.4 billion barrels of shale oil at the Magallanes Basin.

Natural gas

  • According to the OGJ, Chile’s small natural gas reserves allow Chile to produce negligible amounts of natural gas. As a result Chile imports the vast majority of their natural gas. In 2015, Chile imported 127 billion cubic feet (Bcf) of natural gas and consumed a total of 163 Bcf.
  • Chile began to receive liquefied natural gas (LNG) in 2009, and now LNG accounts for most of the country’s natural gas imports. In 2015, Trinidad and Tobago was the key source of LNG exports to Chile by accounting for 90% of the LNG shipments. Other countries made up much smaller portions. GNL Chile, a joint venture of Chilean energy firms, hold a long-term LNG purchasing contract with Shell, which sells cargoes from the company’s global portfolio.
  • Chile has two regasification terminals currently in operation: Mejillones, in the north, and Quintero, near the large urban centers of Valparaíso and Santiago. The Quintero terminal has a regasification capacity of 193 billion cubic feet per year (Bcf/y) and the Mejillones’s regasification capacity is 71 Bcf/y. The Mejillones terminal also has plans to increase their regasification capacity to 129 Bcf/y. One of the key features for both terminals is the use of truck loading facilities. Tanker trucks can deliver LNG to industrial and residential customers who do not have access to traditional natural gas pipelines.
  • Chile plans to install a third import LNG terminal, a floating storage regasification unit, which is expected to come online in 2019. The Penco-Lirquen offshore terminal is expected to import approximately 193 Bcf/y when operational. Cheniere Energy, which owns half of the regasification terminal, intends to supply Penco-Lirquen with natural gas from its liquefaction plant in the U.S. Gulf Coast. Penco-Lirquen will connect to the existing Gasoducto del Pacífico pipeline onshore.
  • Chile also imports very small amounts of natural gas from Argentina by various pipelines that were constructed in the late 1990s. Imports from Argentina grew dramatically in the decade that followed. However, natural gas production declines in Argentina over the past decade resulting from upstream sector underinvestment and higher Argentine demand led Chile to expedite its development of LNG import capabilities. Natural gas exports from Argentina to Chile have been almost nonexistent since 2011.
  • Chile began exporting natural gas to Argentina in May 2016 to meet Argentina’s demand during the peak winter months of the southern hemisphere. ENAP was expected to send 19 Bcf/y of natural gas to help Argentina meet demand for the southern hemisphere’s winter.
  • In 2014, Canadian methane-producing company, Methanex Corporation, idled at least part of its large methanol production in southern Chile, reportedly because of inadequate supplies of natural gas from Argentina. By the summer of 2014, Methanex had restarted their operations in Chile and are instead focusing on domestic assets and other sources of energy beyond their terminated contract with Total Austral S.A. of Argentina.
  • According to its energy ministry, Chile plans to meet more of its domestic energy demand through increased natural gas supplies. ENAP began to import U.S. LNG, in 2016 with the start of operations of Sabine Pass LNG’s export terminal. Furthermore, ENAP has explored portions of the Magallanes shale basin in the southern region of Tierra del Fuego. This region is estimated to have 48 trillion cubic feet of shale gas.

Electricity

  • Chile had 19.7 gigawatts (GW) of installed electric capacity as of 2015. Approximately 58% of Chile’s electric capacity is attributable to thermoelectric generation, 32% to hydroelectricity, and 10% to other renewable energy sources. Chile generated 72.2 terawatthours (TWh) in 2015 with fossil fuels contributing 59%, hydroelectricity 33%, and 10% of other renewables.
  • Chile has two main electrical systems. The two largest systems are the Sistema Interconectado Central (SIC) and the Sistema Interconectado del Norte Grande (SING). In 2015, SIC had 79% of the installed capacity and generated 73% of the electricity in Chile, while SING had 20% of the installed capacity and generated 26% of the electricity in Chile. These electrical grids are currently independent of each other; however, the Chilean government is trying to connect the two grids.
  • Coal is still the main fuel source for electricity generation accounting for 40% of electricity generation in 2015. As with oil and natural gas, Chile imports most of the coal it consumes, with imports accounting for 90% of the coal used in electricity generation in 2014. In an effort to reduce coal import dependence, Chile began production from the Mina Invierno coal mining project in 2013 and the Mina Invierno mine is projected to produce over 5.5 million short tons in the next few years. However, the low coal price environment has forced Mina Invierno to decrease production from almost 4.5 million short tons in 2014 to 3.3 million short tons in 2015.
  • Chile implemented a law in 2010 (and amended in 2013) to increase the amount of renewable energy, excluding large hydroelectricity, by most utility companies to 20% of generation by 2025. By 2015, Chile generated just over 6 TWh of energy from other renewable sources, an increase from 1 TWh in 2010.
  • Chile plans to increase the share of construction projects involving generation from other renewable sources. In 2015, these types of projects accounted for over 50% of the installed capacity to be brought online when completed. Leading the way was solar, accounting for 2.3 GW, followed by small hydroelectricity with 1.2 GW.