Roadblocks Lifted At Argentine Fields

(Argus, 28.Apr.2021) — Protesters in Argentina have lifted roadblocks that had crippled shale oil and gas activity and thwarted fuel distribution for almost three weeks.

Healthcare workers started blocking roads around the Vaca Muerta shale patch in Neuquen province on 7 April in an effort to secure higher pay. They said they will continue some roadblocks in other areas and warned they could restore others if negotiations with the provincial government stall again.

“We do not rule out the possibility that we could block Vaca Muerta again,” said protest representative Marco Campo, an employee at the Dr Castro Rendon hospital in Neuquen. “If we have to come back, we will.”

The workers have rejected the provincial government’s latest offer of a 53pc salary increase because it would be made in installments through March 2022.

Oil sector workers said things were starting to return to normal. “The transit is not fully normalized yet, but we are getting there,” said an employee of an oil company in the area.

The blockades cut production by 3.5mn m3/d of natural gas and around 10,000 b/d of crude, and paralyzed around 70 rigs, including drilling and fracturing equipment.

The persistent roadblocks led oil companies to warn they may not be able to fulfill their supply commitments.

The shortfall in output, which came shortly after the government launched a subsidy program to increase domestic gas production, will likely translate into more wintertime imports of LNG and liquid fuels to run thermal power stations.

Hydrocarbons chamber CEPH said last week that Argentina will have to spend more than $200mn more on imports to make up for lost production.

The blockades had also led to motor fuel shortages in the area as protesters prevented normal distribution of tanker trucks from Argentinian state-controlled YPF‘s 25,000 b/d Plaza Huincul refinery.

The blockades had a knock-on effect on other industries as well. Earlier this week, biodiesel producers said they were suffering a shortage of methanol feedstock that is only produced at Plaza Huincul.

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By Daniel Politi