The construction of the Néstor Kirchner gas pipeline has almost reached the halfway point, with Argentina set to benefit almost immediately from its completion, a state official said Saturday.
Agustín Geréz, the president of state-owned company Energía Argentina SA, said in an interview with a local radio station on Saturday that the first stage of the pipeline is 45 percent and that it could be operational by next winter.
The pipeline will begin operating in approximately two months when it is 75 to 80 percent complete, the official told the AM La990 radio station.
If it keeps to this timescale, the pipeline will save the country US$2.2 billion in fuel imports by the end of the year alone, added Geréz,
The government hopes that the pipeline will transform Argentina's fuel transport capacity for both domestic use and export. When finished, the Gasoducto Néstor Kirchner pipeline will extend for more than 1,000 kilometres (621 miles) from the southwest province of Neuquén to north of Buenos Aires.
The first section of the pipeline, named after the late former president, will extend 558 kilometres from Tratayén, Neuquén Province to Salliqueló, Buenos Aires Province. It would increase gas supply by 22 million cubic metres a day, according to the government.
A second section will extend another 467 kilometres northwards, reaching San Jerónimo, 400 kilometres north of the capital.
Work is already underway on producing the tender documents for the project’s second stage in Buenos Aires Province, which will run from Saliqueló and San Jerónimo.
"When we planned this project we established and set ourselves an ambitious goal, to have the pipeline operational by June 20 – it could be the 18th or the 19th, but the deadline is the 20th," said Geréz.
The project is entering a complex stage of construction: the crossing of the Colorado River. "If there are no unforeseen events, the objective will be met," he said.
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Geréz also estimated that during the coming winter, 11 million cubic metres of gas per day from Stage I of the Néstor Kirchner pipeline could be added to the national supply.
The ENARSA chief stressed the importance of the work, declaring: "This pipeline will allow all Argentines to be able to supply ourselves with our own energy.”
He continued: "This year alone, with six months of operation, it will generate savings of US$2.2 billion in fuel imports. And next year, when it will be operating for the whole year, it will generate savings of US$4.4 billion.”