The French energy giant Total and its Argentine partner, Tecpetrol, announced the discovery of a major natural gas find in Aquio in southeast Bolivia.
The find, which contains some three trillion cubic feet (84 billion cubic meters), will boost natural gas reserves in this Andean country by nearly one third, Bolivian energy officials said Wednesday.
"We've been talking in the past few weeks about 10 trillion cubic feet (280 billion cubic meters) of proven gas reserves in Bolivia, and I believe that with this find, we will have 13 trillion cubic feet (364 billion cubic meters)," Bolivian president Evo Morales said during a ceremony at the site, which is 720 miles (1,200 kilometers) from La Paz.
Total and Tecpetrol have spent some $70 million since February, 2010 looking for gas. The state-owned oil company, YPFB, said Wednesday it did not know how long it would be before the gas would be available, but that it would cost about $800 million to ready the field for production.
However, ex-Hydrocarbons Minister Guillermo Torres told AFP that Total, which has been operating in the area since 2004, still has to carry out more work.
"We expect that with the new drilling that they must carry out to develop the field, the size of the find is confirmed," Torres said.
If confirmed, the find would meet domestic needs and guarantee a steady supply of natural gas exports to Brazil and Argentina.
The announcement comes less than a month after La Paz acknowledged that its natural gas reserves dropped over the last six years, mainly due to a lack of investment in areas of potential development.