San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Decree could help boost liquefied natural gas imports in Costa Rica

An executive decree signed Monday by President Laura Chinchilla and Environment Minister René Castro promises to import more liquefied natural gas in the next six months (LNG).

The announcement was made at a new National Refinery (RECOPE) facility at the Juan Santamaría International Airport, north of San José. 

“This is important for Costa Rica because it is another big step toward guiding the country toward a network of cleaner and more sustainable energy,” Castro said.

The decree is part of the Environment Ministry’s plan to make Costa Rica carbon-neutral by 2021. According to a ministry press release, LNG is cleaner than petroleum-based fuels and will help reduce nitrogen dioxide emissions from vehicles by up to 70 percent, and carbon dioxide emissions from electricity generation by 40 percent.

LNG is also cheaper than other fossil fuels, Castro said.

“We know that the primary cause of greenhouse gas emissions in Costa Rica is the transportation sector, which consumes 78 percent of petroleum derivatives the country imports. Liquefied natural gas is precisely an alternative for us to begin migrating from fossil fuels to less-polluting alternatives at a lower cost,” he said.

Although Castro said the LNG equivalent price of a barrel of oil is $70 cheaper, a statement sent to the daily La Nación by the Costa Rican Geologists Association noted that importing LNG would be just as costly as importing oil. The association urged officials to lift a ban on natural gas exploration in Costa Rica, La Nación reported.

Jorge Suárez, a geologist at the University of Costa Rica, recommended the formation of an inter-agency group supported by the country’s universities to conduct studies projecting the potential environmental effects of natural gas exploration and exploitation.

Castro noted that RECOPE and the Costa Rican Electricity Institute have studies that show LNG is economically viable. RECOPE officials say they are willing to build a processing plant to handle LNG imports.

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