By Jaylan Boyle, Senior Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO – A brand new pipeline that will supply the Amazon with natural gas was inaugurated on November 26th in the regional center of Manaus, an event attended by Brazilian president Luis Inacio ‘Lula’ da Silva and Petrobras executives at the Isaac Sabbá Refinery, the first installation to receive gas from the pipeline.
The 661km Urucu-Coari-Manaus pipeline will link the energy-starved Amazon region, which is not on the national electricity grid, to the ‘deep jungle’ Urucu gas field. Gas will be supplied to the region’s existing thermoelectric plants which will now be able to generate power in a cleaner and more efficient way than the present practice of burning diesel.
Costing R$4.58 billion, the pipeline is expected to reach capacity in September of next year, when it will be transporting 5.5 million cubic meters of natural gas per day. Demand for energy is so great in the area that the switchover from diesel to natural gas must be managed carefully and gradually, so as not to place undue stress on a barely adequate system. After a few days of operation, the pipeline should be delivering around 4.1 million cubic liters per day.
“The gas is here so we can bring about a small revolution in the energy matrix of Brazil’s northern region, so we can have clean energy”, said President Lula at the inauguration ceremony.
The city of Manaus, with a population of 1.8 million, will benefit in both the fiscal and environmental sense from the new pipeline since burning natural gas rather than diesel is not only significantly cheaper, but will reduce the city’s carbon emissions by approximately 30 percent, equivalent to 1.2 million tonnes of carbon dioxide.
Environmental awareness was key in the construction of the complex engineering project, and other challenges inherent to the region, such as humidity and copious rainfall, meant Petrobras needed to come up with innovative uses of cutting-edge technologies.
Project Implementations Manager Marcelo Restum outlined at the inauguration the measures employed to keep the impact of the pipeline on the world’s largest rain forest to a minimum including widespread use of helicopters rather than trucks delivering the 4.5tn sections of pipe and 6,000 floats and barrels to keep them in place.
President Lula’s Chief of Staff Dilma Roussef, also present, said that she believes the processes involved in the pipeline construction are testament to the feasibility of ‘green’ engineering. “We were able to build the gas pipeline with full respect for the environment,” she commented.
The Urucu natural gas field, deep in Amazonian jungle, is the second largest of it’s type in Brazil, with an estimated 52.8 billion cubic meters (1.9 trillion cubic feet) of proven reserves. Eventually, branches of the pipeline will supply seven other centers in the remote Amazon region: Coari, Codajas, Anori, Anama, Caapiranga, Manacapuru and Iranduba.