The Refinadora Costarricense de Petróleo (Recope) does not have a monopoly on the import, distribution and sale of natural gas, as this fuel is not a petroleum product or derivative of, but is gaseous substance with its own characteristics. And, not being a petroleum product Recope cannot legally import it.
That is the determination by the Procuraduría General de la República (Attorney General), responding to a consulation by Libertarian legislator, Marielos Alfaro, asking the Procuraduría for an interpretation to learn if natural gas is not within the scope of the Recope and if the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad (ICE) and industry could import natural gas for its own consumption.
The Procuraduría says it bases its determination on the provisions of Ley 7356 that gives Recope the state monopoly on the importation, refining and wholesale distribution of crude oil and its derivatives, that includes gasoline, diesel, aviation fuel and asphalt. It does not specify natural gas.
Last July, a initiative was presented by five members of the Partido Acción Ciudadana (PAC), with the intention of safeguarding natural gas. The bill currently in the Environmental Commission of the Legislative Assembly, would give the monopoly of natural gas to Recope.
The issue of natural gas is also being discussed among various levels of government, given that the alternative fuel is friendlier to the environment.
Although the Procuraduría is of the opinion that anyone can import natural gas, it makes it clear that any import is subject to meeting requirements set out by the state.
In the document released on February 11 by the Procuraduría, it states, “a certain substance shall be within the monopoly provivions of Ley 7356 if it is oil or if scientifically or technically considered a petroleum product. To the contrary, if it cannot be established as a derivative of oil, legally it cannot be considered an import monopoly of the state, in which case Recope cannot import it”.
Sources: La Nacion, Diario Extra, Procuraduría General de la República