In a Nutshell:

Besides the increase of the renewable energy such as Eolic energy and solar photovoltaic energy, it is relevant to highlight the expansion of the natural gas as the second most important source of energy in the energy matrix, in many countries of Latin America, after oil. This article briefly looks at each region in South America and how they have already invested in the growth of the natural gas market in the new decade. It continues to briefly discuss what is needed for the effective integrity management of gas pipelines.

The United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean has determined that a fundamental area of development for energy in the region is the shift of the energy matrix towards a more sustainable and efficient one (Regional Observatory on Sustainable Energies ROSE – United Nations Economic Commission for LAC).

Several industry experts agree that the demand for natural gas, considered to be an environmentally friendly energy source, will grow in the world and will rapidly replace coal; however, prices will tend to fall, so production must become more efficient.

The Latin-American Energy Organization OLADE (OLADE, 2019) believes we are entering a phase of the energy transition where natural gas is the frontrunner, and with that Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG). Nowadays, natural gas is the second most important source in the energy matrix of many countries in Latin America, surpassed only by oil and its derivatives.

According to the 2019 Latin-American and Caribbean Energy Outlook from OLADE (OLADE, 2019), the demand for natural gas has shown accelerated growth due to rising competition and the benefits of this source in the last decade; this applies to the reservoirs available in the region, both in conventional and unconventional fields, and to its cleaner conditions of use.

In a high-gasification scenario and given the substitution premises, natural gas has a relatively dominant presence in some countries, including Brazil, Mexico, the Southern Cone and the Caribbean.

According to a comparative study on OLADE’s 2017-2040 global and regional energy prospect (Latin-American Energy Organization OLADE, 2019), fossil fuels will continue to play a relevant role in the demand for primary energy in 2040, despite the fact that natural gas and renewables are growing faster. As a result, the share of oil and coal decreases, while natural gas and renewable energies increase.

Some countries in South America have already invested in natural gas growth, and the prospects for the next decade are positive, especially in Brazil. Let us take a look at each region:


By 2030, Brazil is expected to double natural gas production, according to a projection by the state-run Energy Research Company (EPE), which is linked to the Ministry of Mines and Energy. The next decade will bring an increase from the current 59 million cubic meters (m3) per day to 147 million m3 per day (epe Empresa de Pesquisa Energetica, December 2019).

In late 2019, the Brazilian Minister of Mines and Energy, Bento Albuquerque, presented the Program for Revitalizing the Activity of Exploration and Production of Oil and Natural Gas in Terrestrial Areas (Reate 2020), which plans to increase onshore investments in oil and gas from the current $400 million to $1 billion (Xinhua, 2019).

According to the minister, production would move from 270,000 barrels per day to reach 500,000 barrels per day. In addition, the investments in oil and gas exploration and production would be $10 billion (Xinhua, 2019).

The Natural Gas Processing and Flow Plan from Brazil’s Minister of Mines and Energy indicates that eleven new pipeline projects were mapped in the country, with close to 2,100 km in length. These projects may add more than 70 million m3/day of offshore flow capacity into the country. In addition, the natural gas processing units would have capacity of over 70 million m3/day, corresponding to about 70% of the currently installed capacity (Ministerio de Minas y Energia Secretaria de Petróleo, Gás Natural e Biocombustíveis, 2019).


In Argentina, several scenarios are projected for gas production. The first one is accumulated annual growth of 2.4% until the first section of the Vaca Muerta pipeline is completed (Enernews, 2019). YPF, a leading Latin American company in unconventional hydrocarbon production, says that to achieve greater growth, and, in addition, to eliminate bottlenecks in transport networks, the country requires new demand generation to achieve costs that are sustainable for exporting LNG (Journal, 2019).


In Peru, the role of natural gas and its incorporation into the regional energy matrix as a transition fuel to less polluting sources is being highlighted and promoted by the Peruvian Ministry of Energy and Mines. The most recent metrics from Peru reveal that natural gas production is setting records while the country is making an effort to expand and increase demand and use.


Regarding opportunities that exist for gas production in Bolivia, demand for natural gas is increasing. This development represents an opportunity for the country and could significantly impact the energy matrix of the region. By 2020, a production increase of more than 20 million mcd is projected, with the operation of major projects that will contribute to ensure the supply of the domestic market and to export to other markets. The Hydrocarbons Minister predicts a reservoir increase of 10.7% to 15 trillion cubic feet by 2025 (AA, 2019).


Demand for gas in the country is increasing, as it is considered a fundamental fuel for the energy transition. Colombia has very large gas potential in the subsurface, conventional, non-conventional, and in the Caribbean Sea. According to Naturgas, developing projects in the sea could ensure additional reservoirs through 2031 (El Espectador, 2019). In addition, according to Naturgas, Colombia has a potential of 54.7 trillion cubic feet of gas in deep waters. This would increase the number of actual reservoirs by a factor of ten (Portafolio, 2019).

Integrity management in gas transmission

The operators of industrial assets who aim to safely and reliably transport gas must pass compliance audits and legislation compliance audits, and they must have best-practice benchmarking to ensure system effectiveness. Three main threats should be taken into account in order to best determine the integrity status of any given pipeline.

  1. Corrosion: Is the pipeline wall subjected to internal or external corrosion, and how is this corrosion predicted to evolve?
  2. Cracks: Is the pipeline affected by any type of cracking that may cause severe damage?
  3. Geohazards: Is the pipeline affected by external movements, increasing the potential risk of crack-colony accumulation or other potential damage?

In order to best manage these threats, data collection is vital. The best proven method for this is in-line inspection (ILI). However, the inspection of gas pipelines faces many challenges; completing an ILI in liquid is not the same as in gas. One of the challenges (although by no means the only one) is ensuring consistent run behavior of the inspection tool, which includes the appropriate speed. Consequently, inspections must consider the implementation of a speed control unit to compensate for speed excursions.

Another challenge that needs to be considered by operators when performing an ILI is the optimization of production and the distribution of gas to satisfy the operational parameters of the ILI run. Guaranteeing the success of an inspection thus really does depend on a close partnership between operator and inspection vendor.

The right technology

Although there are other relevant and suitable technologies for the inspection of gas pipelines (including Ultrasound and Magnetic Flux Leakage), EMAT technology was created as a tailor-made solution for gas pipeline inspection. Its complete development (including verification) took almost ten years. EMAT is a non-destructive testing technology that has applications in a wide range of industrial sectors. It is generally used to assess the condition of manufactured objects, and the technology is particularly effective when used to detect stress corrosion cracking and disbanded coating.

Consisting of a magnet and an electrical coil, EMAT uses electro-magnetic energy that gets converted into acoustic energy in order to test sound energy into the test object through a combination of Lorentz Force and Magnetostriction.

Doing more with the data

Of course, the proper collection of data is a key element for the efficient integrity management of gas pipelines. However, the follow up and predictive data analysis that can be done post-ILI allows for an even better understanding of an asset’s current and future condition. Some integrity work that is particularly relevant for gas pipelines includes assessments around cracking, risk and root cause analysis, and creating a management plan that combines future activities (like direct assessment, ILI, hydrotesting, recoating, replacement and others) to ensure safe and efficient operation.


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Journal, A. (2019, 09 25). Once we have a clear future of gas, we will prioritize oil. AOG Journal - XII Argentina Oil & Gas Expo 2019.

Latin-American Energy Organization OLADE. (2019). Latin American and Caribbean Energy Outlook. In Latin American and Caribbean Energy Outlook (p. 303).

Ministerio de Minas y Energia Secretaria de Petróleo, Gás Natural e Biocombustíveis. (2019). Plano Indicativo de Processamento e Escoamento de Gás Natural PIPE. Rio de Janeiro.

OLADE, L.-A. E. (2019). Latin American and Caribbean Energy Outlook 2019.

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