|Martin Barillas||December 5th 2012|
Cutting Edge Senior Correspondent
Paraguayan President Federico Franco is visiting Miami on December 5 where he will meet with oil company officials to discuss ongoing oil exploration in the arid Chaco region of the isolated South American country. Speaking to Spero News at a conference in Paraguay, Horacio Enciso, who writes for Economia Virtual – an online news site based in Asuncion – affirmed that the finding of significant petroleum deposits would be a game-changer for Paraguay. Currently, Paraguay imports oil that is refined at its government-controlled La Teja refinery.
La Teja is being converted in order to refine heavier crude now being supplied by Venezuela, a country with which Paraguay’s current government is increasingly at odds. Since Paraguay does not currently produce petroleum, a significant find in Chaco is hoped to lead to energy independence and lower rates for oil. According to a report by Paraguay’s official news agency, President Franco announced that by mid-2013 Paraguay will become an oil-producing country. Speaking at a forum last week in Asuncion, Franco told listeners, “Paraguay is a country that is full of opportunities,” adding “oil has been found in the Pirity basin that is of the best quality and in great quantity.”
According to Economia Virtual, two American firms - Crescent Global Oil and Pirity Hidrocarburo plan to begin drilling exploratory wells this month. At the forum, Franco gave assurances that “Paraguay will not only be a world leader in clean and renewable hydroelectric power, but also as of today, and in the next week, it will surely become in April, May or June of next year, one of the world’s oil-producing countries."
On December 4, President Franco was at Colonia Neuland – a town in Chaco – where he met with representatives of President Energy. At least 10 oil exploration trucks are being deployed in the region to conduct seismic tests. Later, exploratory wells of some 12,000 feet in depth would drilled at a cost between $5 to $10 million. Some estimates indicate that there could be as much as 150 million barrels of oil in the Pirity Basin. President Energy is an Anglo-American enterprise that also operates in Australia and the U.S. According ABC Color, a local daily, Peter Levine of President Energy refused to speculate on the actual amount of oil to be found.
Paraguay's lush climate and varied topography affords tremendous potential for bio-fuel and other agricultural products. It is already one to the top producers of soy, while it also produces sugar cane: one of the ingredients used for ethanol. The isolated country also has one of the largest fresh-water acquifers in the world and home to two of the largest hydroelectric dams on the planet: Yacyreta and Itaipu. The former of these has a maximum output of 19,080 gigawatts per annum and supplies both Argentina and Paraguay. Under a bilateral agreement, Argentina and Paraguay share ownership of the hydroelectric and ship locks at Yacyreta.
On a recent visit to Paraguay, officials at the dam told Speroforum that currently about 80 percent of the electricity produced is purchased by Argentina. Downriver is the Itaipu dam, shared by Paraguay and Brazil. Itaipu is the largest operating hydroelectric facility in the world in terms of annual energy generation, generating 94.7 KWh in 2008 and 91.6 KWh in 2009.