LIMA, May 13 (UPI) -- Peru, the fastest growing economy in Latin America, is hoping its natural gas development projects will transform its economy and Fitch rating agency agrees.
Peru is a net oil importer and natural gas exporter but rising exploration and development may lead to increased production and exports of both oil and gas in the next few years, U.S. Energy Information Administration says.
The Latin American country of 29.5 million people remains self-sufficient in gas despite recent increases in domestic demand, a result of economic growth and moves toward poverty reduction in outlying rural areas and urban sprawls.
Peru began exporting liquefied natural gas in 2010.
Peruvian President Ollanta Humala, opening a natural gas installation for homes in the city of Pisco in the Ica region, said the government is prioritizing natural gas exploration and development.
"The gas issue is strategic and we have to prioritize renewable energy, hydropower, and make the best use of our non renewable resources," he said.
Despite a decline in crude oil production, Peru's total oil liquids output has increased in recent years as a result of increased production of natural gas liquids, EIA says.
The country's natural gas sector is expected to benefit from strong energy demand as national earnings rise and there's more infrastructural investment, Fitch Ratings said in a new report.
"Peru is the fastest growing economy in Latin America, with annual [gross domestic product] growth of around 6 percent, double the median rate for 'BBB' countries. It also maintains among the lowest and stable inflation rates in the region," Fitch analyst John Wiske said.
Energy demand in the country is expected to keep pace with the country's economic growth. An electricity demand growth rate of 5.6 percent to 7.4 percent per year is predicted through 2015.
Fitch estimates Peru's "massive, highly concentrated gas reserves" are estimated between 12 trillion-25 trillion cubic feet, with a total reserve life of 40-50 years. Nine fields are producing gas and 59 other oil and gas fields are under exploration.
The Camisea fields near the Urubamba River in central Peru contain most of Peru's gas reserves -- 89 percent of proven reserves, 95 percent of the current production volume and 98 percent of natural gas liquids reserves.
Fitch warns any disruption in production would "affect the entire production chain and the country's macroeconomic conditions."
Ollanta's government is developing northern and southern expansions to the gas distribution network, which has been held up by construction and licensing delays.
"The government's ability to execute the national strategy will depend on how effectively it can integrate these comparatively more scattered regions into a national network," Fitch said.