Drought fears prompt Colombia to reduce gas exports to Venezuela
BOGOTA, April 28 (Reuters) - Colombia will reduce gas exports to Venezuela to ensure it has enough fuel to run its power plants, the energy minister said on Monday, with the threat that dry weather from an imminent El Nino weather anomaly could cut hydroelectric generation.
Colombia currently exports around 150 million cubic feet of gas, just over a tenth of average national output, from its Ballenas field, operated by U.S. oil producer Chevron Corp and Ecopetrol, to the western side of neighboring Venezuela.
"What we're looking for is to guarantee sufficient availability of this fuel to the thermal stations," Colombian Energy Minister Amylkar Acosta told journalists, without revealing by how much the exports would be reduced.
"Whenever we have a surplus after attending to internal demand, which is the priority, there will be no problem to then supply this surplus gas to Venezuela," he said.
Colombia's government warned last week that an El Nino weather anomaly in the second half of the year could lead to droughts and lower water levels at hydroelectric dams, which provide about two-thirds of the Andean nation's electricity.
El Nino - a warming of sea-surface temperatures in the Pacific - affects wind patterns and can trigger floods and drought in different parts of the globe, curbing food supply. It tends to bring dryness to Colombia while increasing precipitation farther to the south in Brazil. (Reporting by Luis Jaime Acosta; Writing by Peter Murphy; Editing by Steve Orlofsky)
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