BP, Pan American Eye Exporting Argentina Shale Gas As LNG Via Chile

(S&P Global Platts, 15.Nov.2018) — Pan American Energy, the second-biggest oil producer and third for gas in Argentina, is working with BP on potentially exporting LNG out of Chile, a project that could prove faster to get Vaca Muerta shale gas to market than building a liquefaction facility in Argentina.

The project is in the conceptual design phase and would involve delivering supplies over an existing Argentina-Chile pipeline to the Quintero LNG regasification terminal in Chile, said Alejandro Lopez Angriman, vice president of reserves development at Pan American.

The Quintero terminal “can be turned around so it can liquefy to export,” he said on the sidelines of an energy conference in Mendoza, Argentina.

The pipeline has 10 million cu m/d of capacity for moving supplies from Vaca Muerta to Chile, but is mostly running empty. It has been used over the past few June-to-August winters to bring regasified LNG to Argentina from Chile.

To deliver supplies to Chile, the pipeline would have to be modified with a loop, Lopez Angriman said.

BP — which owns 50% of Pan American alongside Bridas, itself 50% owned by China’s CNOOC — is helping on the conceptual engineering for the project, he added.

The project could cost around $300 million if it goes forward, he added, with the first train exporting 25 million cu m/d.


The research into the project comes as gas production surges in Argentina, led by Vaca Muerta, one of the world’s largest shale plays.

The country’s overall gas production rose 14% to 130 million cu m/d this year from a 16-year low of 113.7 million cu m/d in 2014, allowing the country to restart exports by pipeline to Chile after an 11-year suspension.

The Energy Secretariat estimates that with enough investment Vaca Muerta could double the country’s gas production over the next five years to 238 million cu m/d, allowing exports to surge to 100 million cu m/d in 2023 from less than 1 million cu m/d this year.

In the late 1990s and early 2000s, Argentina exported 20 million cu m/d to Brazil, Chile and Uruguay, and the pipelines are still in place. The country halted exports in the mid-2000s as production plunged, bringing shortages and a surge in imports of Bolivian gas and LNG. Imports have averaged 30 million cu m/d since 2012, but started declining this year, according to Energy Secretariat data.

Pan American got a permit this year to export gas to Chile, and it likely will start to make deliveries during the upcoming December to February summer for consumption in that market, Lopez Angriman said.

But he said that won’t be enough to sustain a larger development of Vaca Muerta, where he estimates one field could easily supply the LNG export terminal.

“The field could produce 25, 50, or even 100 million cu m/d,” Lopez Angriman said. “It’s incredible the number of wells that you can do in Vaca Muerta for gas.”

Frackers, he added, have de-risked the gas potential in Vaca Muerta, and the next step is to find the capital to put it into full-scale production. But to attract investors, more pipelines are needed to get the gas out and additional markets must be found to increase sales so production can be sustained year-round, not slowed during the summer with the closing of wells. State-run YPF, the country’s biggest gas producer, had to close gas wells in the third quarter of this year, in part because warming temperatures and a contracting economy reduced demand.

Argentina has sharp fluctuations in gas demand, from 115 million cu m/d in the summer and peaks at 180 million cu m/d in the winter, according to data from Enargas, the national gas regulator.

“It is not a good thing to convince investors to invest in shale gas when production has to be halted during the summer,” Lopez Angriman said.


While gas exports can be increased to neighboring countries, these markets suffer the same predicament as Argentina: their demand for gas plunges in the summer. That means LNG must be pursued if output from Vaca Muerta is to be expanded, he said.

But to do that, a big challenge is to bring down development costs in the play so the gas can be competitive against Australia, Qatar, the US and other suppliers in sales to Southeast Asia, where demand is expected to grow, Lopez Angriman said.

He estimates that at around $3/MMBtu, sales can be competitive. But to get there, Vaca Muerta development costs must come down 30%, and the focus is on easing the strain of frack sand, which accounts for 30% of the well completion cost, he said.

Frackers have shaved the cost of sand to $190/mt from $250/mt over the past few years, but it is still higher than the $60/mt figure in the US.

“If we are going to compete with the US or Canada, one way or another we have to reduce the cost of sand,” he said.

Help is to come from moving more sand by boat and train to Vaca Muerta, located in the southwest. Most of the sand is currently being trucked 1,000 km (621 miles) from Entre Rios, a central province, with transport accounting for 50% of the total cost of sand.

There is a government-led plan to extend a cargo railway to Vaca Muerta, but it is not likely to start for three to four years. Once it is in operation, the cost will come down because it is cheaper to move the sand from Entre Rios by river and ocean to Bahia Blanca, an Atlantic port where it can be loaded onto the train for delivery to the well sites.


Pan American also is looking at the option of building liquefaction capacity in Argentina, as are other companies.

On Monday, YPF said it plans to install a floating liquefaction barge in Bahia Blanca to export up to 2.5 million cu m/d of LNG from 2019, and then work on building a larger export terminal.

The government, meanwhile, is studying a project for exporting LNG from a six-train onshore terminal in Bahia Blanca, likely starting in 2023 with shipments of 40 million cu m/d, increasing to 120 million cu m/d in 2025.



Argentina’s Energy Secretary Iguacel Promotes Vaca Muerta in US Road Show

(Energy Analytics Institute, Aaron Simonsky, 13.Nov.2018) — Argentina’s Energy Secretary Javier Iguacel participated in the annual Independent Petroleum Association of America (IPPA) meeting held in New Orleans, Louisiana.

“We have a great opportunity to give Argentine citizens plenty of energy and at affordable prices. We are very happy because today we see there are many North American companies wanting to invest in Argentina with local companies,” reported Argentina’s Treasury in a statement on its website, citing Iguacel. “This will not only allow us to accelerate development of Vaca Muerta, but it will generate a lot of work and progress for many Argentine citizens.”

The meeting was attended by 35 Argentine companies and more than 50 North American companies interested in developing Argentina’s conventional and unconventional hydrocarbon potential and its value chain.

Companies in attendance included but were not limited to the following: Perez Companc Group, SICA Metalúrgica Argentina, SIDECO, MEDANITO-FLARGENT, CUDD, Ardyne, Nine Energy Service and Evcam, among others.

Also participating in the meeting was Argentina’s Ambassador to the U.S. Fernando Oris de Roa; Office of International Affairs of the U.S. Department of Energy Advisor Kennet Stevens; and Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) Advisor Deaver Alexander.



YPF Says Combined Output Plummets 4.3% In 3Q:18

(Energy Analytics Institute, Aaron Simonsky, 12.Nov.2018) — YPF announced that combined equivalent production fell 4.3% in the third quarter of 2018.

Total production fell to 529.1 Mboe/d in 3Q:18 compared to 553.2 Mboe/d in 3Q:17, and driven mainly by a decline in NGL production and natural gas demand restrictions, the company announced during its quarterly call with investors and analyst.

Year-over-year, production of NGLs was down 44.6%, natural gas production was down 1%, while crude oil production was up a slight 0.1%, the company said.

Looking forward, YPF announced its year-end 2018 production guidance has been revised to negative 3-4% compared to negative 2% earlier.



Argentina Initiates U.S. ‘Vaca Muerta’ Road Show

(Energy Analytics Institute, Aaron Simonsky, 12.Nov.2018) — Officials from Argentina initiated a road show today in the U.S. aimed at attracting investments in the Vaca Muerta formation in Neuquen.

Argentina’s Energy Secretary Javier Iguacel, along with officials and representatives from more than 30 oil companies, plan to participate in the investor road show that will take them to several cities in the U.S., reported online media Vaca Muerta News.



Argentina Awaits Hydrocarbon Investments Of Nearly $13 Billion in 2019

(Energy Analytics Institute, Aaron Simonsky, 8.Nov.2018) — Argentine hydrocarbon investments are projected to increase in 2019 compared to 2018, announced the country’s Energy Secretary Javier Iguacel.

“This year they invested $9 billion in oil and gas. Next year we expect investments of $13 billion and double the amount of equipment that is drilling,” Argentina’s Treasury reported in an official statement, citing comments made by Iguacel during his participation at the meeting ‘Energy in Argentina,’ which was organized by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and held at Palace San Martín.



Argentina Aims To Cover 20% Of Energy Demand in 2025 With Renewables

(Energy Analytics Institute, Aaron Simonsky, 8.Nov.2018) — Argentina’s shale boom taking place in the Vaca Muerta formation in Neuquen will not stop the country from pursuing goals related to renewable energies.

“We set out to promote renewable energies and assume a very specific commitment,” Argentina’s Treasury reported in an official statement, citing Argentine President Mauricio Macri during a visit on Nov. 7 to a plant run by Newsan.

“By 2025 [our aim is that] 20% of electricity demand will be covered by renewable energies,” said Macri.



Argentina Restarts Natural Gas Exports To Chile

(Reuters, Dave Sherwood, 30.Oct.2018) —  Argentina has begun exporting natural gas to Chile after a 12 year interlude, Chilean President Sebastian Pinera said on Tuesday, as the two South American neighbors seek to increasingly integrate their energy supply and electricity grids.

The unconventional gas is being piped from Argentina’s oil- and gas-rich Vaca Muerta shale field in the Neuquen basin, then sent over the Andes mountain range to Chile’s southern province of Biobio.

“We are working enthusiastically with (Argentine) President Mauricio Macri to integrate our energy supply,” Pinera said in a speech.

The exports mark a turning point in energy trade in the region. Argentina, which sits atop the world’s No. 2 shale gas reserves, was once a major supplier of natural gas to Chile, but triggered a diplomatic crisis in the mid-2000s by cutting off shipments when its own supplies ran low.

The move sent Chile, a global mining powerhouse that has few hydrocarbons of its own, scrambling to find new sources of supply. The spat also helped foster a move towards alternative energy sources like wind and solar in Chile.

Pinera said the two countries had very different, but often complementary, energy needs, and that depending on the time of year and circumstance, could either export or import fuel and electricity across their shared border.

“This will permit us to back one another up without having to spend excess money to do so,” he said.



YPF To Spend Billions To Boost Oil And Gas Output

(Reuters, Eliana Raszewski, Hugh Bronstein, 26.Oct.2018) — Argentina’s state-controlled oil company, YPF, will significantly boost oil and gas production, investing between $4 billion and $5 billion per year through 2022, Chief Executive Daniel Gonzalez told Reuters on Friday.

It plans to raise production by between 5 percent and 7 percent per year, with the largest increase in the Vaca Muerta formation, one of the world’s largest reserves of shale oil and gas.

The company intends to invest $3.6 billion on infrastructure in Vaca Muerta over the next five years, Gonzalez said, adding that the company is looking to speed up shale oil and gas extraction, with 1,700 wells drilled by 2023.

YPF shares jumped 4.3 percent to 562.35 pesos ($15.20) per unit in afternoon trade, after having traded down 2.5 percent earlier in the day.

“Crude oil is going to grow, I would say twice as fast as natural gas for us in the next five years,” Gonzalez said.

“Having said that, crude oil production will be seven times what it is today and shale gas will be four times what it is today in five years. So there will be a significant growth in unconventional (shale) production,” he said.

The company also plans to begin exporting gas to Chile, and investing in offshore exploration in the Argentina’s Gulf of San Jorge, on the southern Atlantic coast.

Gonzalez said the plans would allow YPF to double its dividends every year over the next three years.

“We are going to do that in a very disciplined way, reducing our debt significantly, increasing our dividends and more importantly generating cash that we can invest in new ventures. All of this growth can be financed organically by the company, by markets and our cash generation,” Gonzalez said.

YPF said it will also double its electricity generation capacity, and that 20 percent of that electricity would come from renewable sources by 2023.

While YPF is the leading investor in Vaca Muerta, the Argentine government has tried to spur investment in the region with a labor agreement to incentivize competition among oil and gas drillers, construction companies and mid-stream service providers.



Argentina To Reduce Bolivian Gas Imports To Minimum

(Energy Analytics Institute, Jared Yamin, 20.Oct.2018) — Argentina will likely reduce its demand for Bolivian natural gas imports to a minimum, says an oil analyst.

Argentina, which continues to boost production of its unconventional shale gas resources located in the Vaca Muerta formation in the Neuquen region, will likely reduce its demand for natural gas imports from Bolivia to a minimum 23.5 million cubic meters per day (MMcm/d), reported the daily newspaper El Diario, citing Jubilee Foundation Oil Analyst Raul Velásquez.

The analyst made the comments after declarations from Argentina’s Energy Secretary Javier Iguacel that revealed that in two years the country would no longer need to import gas from Bolivia.



Argentina Plans To Close LNG Importing Facility

(Bloomberg, Jonathan Gilbert, 17.Oct.2018) — Argentina plans to close a facility for importing liquefied natural gas (LNG), according to people with direct knowledge of the matter, after booming production from shale deposits in the Vaca Muerta region turned the country into a seasonal exporter.

A contract with Excelerate Energy, which has a regasification ship moored at the Atlantic port of Bahia Blanca, won’t be renewed when it expires at the end of the month, said the people, who asked not to be named because the decision isn’t yet public. Argentina will continue to import LNG at another facility in Escobar, on the River Plate estuary, the people said.

YPF SA, the state-run oil company that manages the contract, declined to comment on the decision. A spokeswoman for Excelerate didn’t immediately comment.

The decision not to renew the decade-old contract comes as output from Vaca Muerta, the nation’s answer to the Permian basin, has created an oversupply of gas during the summer. Shale gas production soared to 205 million cubic meters a day in August, more than triple the level seen a year earlier. The government has negotiated exports to Chile to help solve the problem. It has also initiated talks to receive less gas from neighboring Bolivia, with which it has a contract through 2026.

Three Cheniere Energy tankers were set to unload at Bahia Blanca this year through May, according to the latest official import schedule.



Argentina Looks to Cease Bolivian Gas Imports By 2020

(Energy Analytics Institute, Jared Yamin, 16.Oct.2018) — With its own gas projects to develop, Argentina is seeking to reduce imports of natural gas and by 2020 it expects to stop buying it completely from Bolivia.

In the run up period, Argentina looks to reduce Bolivian gas imports by 20% in 2018, by 50% in 2019, and by 2020 they would no longer be necessary, reported Bolivian media La Razon, citing Argentina’s Energy Secretary Javier Iguacel.

The plan announced by the Argentine official is based on three current massive developments and four other promised in the Vaca Muerta formation, which spans four provinces: Neuquén, Río Negro, La Pampa and Mendoza.

Currently, the Neuquén Basin produces almost 70 million cubic meters of gas per day (MMcm/d) and Argentina expects to boost production in the basin to nearly 90 MMcm/d with additional investments.



Bolivia’s Gas Lower than LNG, Vaca Muerta Shale: Sánchez Says

(Energy Analytics Institute, Jared Yamin, 12.Oct.2018) — Bolivian natural gas is more competitive than liquefied natural gas (LNG) and gas from Argentina’s Vaca Muerta shale formation, announced Bolivia’s Hydrocarbon Minister Luis Alberto Sánchez.

The minister stressed that Bolivian gas, priced at $7/MMbtu, was much cheaper than Argentine gas.

Argentina’s LNG imports cost around $10.50/MMbtu, while the production cost in Vaca Muerta is around $7.50/MMbtu, so “the most competitive gas for the Argentine market is undoubtedly Bolivian gas,” reported the daily newspaper El Diario, citing Sánchez.

Sánchez warned that if Argentina decides to pay a lower price (reduces the price), it must pay the Take or Pay (contract modality), which establishes a fine be paid for any energy not withdrawn, plus interest.


Energy Analytics Institute (EAI): #LatAmNRG

Añelo: The Two Realities of this Small Town in the Heart of Neuquen

(Energy Analytics Institute, Jared Yamin, 10.Oct.2018) — Añelo is a small oil town located in the heart of Neuquen and the Vaca Muerta shale revolution. This small town with a population of almost 8,000 is expected to swell to tremendously in coming years as the shale boom picks up speed, says Jorge Lanata of Argentina’s El Trece TV during his tour of Añelo back in 2014.




Argentina’s Vaca Muerta Looks to Attract $7 Bln in Investments in 2019

(Energy Analytics Institute, Jared Yamin, 6.Oct.2018) — Investors could inject $7 billion into the Vaca Muerta in 2019, announced Neuquén Governor, Omar Gutiérrez.

“In 2019, we will have 15 new drilling rigs conducting unconventional activity and reach an investment record with $7 billion,” reported the Argentine daily newspaper Clarin, citing comments from the official made during the International Oil & Gas Exhibition in the capital of Neuquén. “Each team requires a workforce of 200 people, therefore we will be generating 3,000 new jobs,” he add.

According to projections for next year, new extraction numbers could also be established.

In 2019, Argentina’s natural gas production is expected to reach 90 million cubic meters per day (MMcm/d), while crude oil production is expected to reach 140 thousand barrels per day (Mb/d). This compares to current Neuquén production of 68.6 MMcm/d and 113 Mb/d, the daily reported, without citing its sources.

The Neuquén basin generates 50% of Argentina’s gas, of which 61% of this figure currently comes from the Vaca Muerta, according to the daily. Additionally, 50% of the oil produced in Neuquén is also extracted from Vaca Muerta.


Argentina: The Energy Challenge

(YPF, 1.Oct.2018) — Argentina’s unconventional oil & gas resources are among the world’s largest. YPF is working and investing to increase production with the aim of meeting the challenge of regaining energy self-sufficiency.

The importance of hydrocarbons

Energy is the basis of our society and our way of life. We depend on it for food production, transportation, heating, electricity, lighting, telecommunications and technology.

The economic development of the country depends on the availability of oil and gas, the main sources of energy which do not only generate electricity.

90% of the objects we use every day are derived from petroleum products. Petroleum is also essential for producing bottles, bags, cell phones, watches, clothing, paint, detergents, fertilizers, toothpaste, hair conditioner and much more.

Moreover, in Argentina, 1,800 million liters of diesel are used to produce 100 million tons of grain annually.

It is estimated that by 2040 renewable energies will occupy nearly 15% of the world’s energy matrix. However energy from fossil fuels will continue to occupy a high percentage of more than 80%.

Resources to regain self-sufficiency

Due to the natural decline of conventional hydrocarbon reserves and a sustained increase in demand for fuel and the thousands of products derived from it, in addition to alternative energies it is also necessary to explore and add new resources. Shale is a sedimentary formation with low permeability which contains unconventional hydrocarbons housed in the micropores of the rock. To extract oil and gas from this rock conventional perforations are performed similar to those used in Argentina over the past 70 years, and with the addition of a next-generation technology known as hydraulic stimulation. The highest safety standards are applied in this technique and this ensures both efficiency and environmental care.
Our country has an enormous worldwide potential to obtain large hydrocarbon reserves from unconventional resources.

Vaca Muerta

It is a geological formation of 30,000 km² (12,000 km² in concession to YPF) located mainly in the province of Neuquén and containing oil and gas found at a depth of more than 2,500 meters, far from the groundwater that in this region is located at a depth of between 300 and 400 meters.

The relevance of Vaca Muerta is so significant that the development of only a small part of this formation could cover the country’s energy deficit.

Read he full story online here.



Neuquen Gas Production Reaches 69.8 MMcm/d in August 2018

(Energy Analytics Institute, Jared Yamin, 27.Sep.2018) — Crude oil and natural gas production from the Neuquen Basin rose sequentially in August 2018.

Oil production reached 120,551 barrels per day (b/d) in August 2018, up 6.64% compared to July 2018, and up 16.9% compared to August 2017, while gas production reached 69.8 million cubic meters per day (MMcm/d), up 2.48% sequentially, and up 13.3% year-over-year.

A large part of this growth was due to three massive developments carried out in the unconventional area, the Government of the Neuquén Province reported in an official statement on its website

Of this total, Vaca Muerta today produces 65,186 b/d of oil (54% of what the Neuquen basin produces) and 43.2 MMcm/d of gas (62% of what the Neuquen basin produces). Of this last figure, 30% corresponds to shale gas (20.5 MMcm/d) and 32% to tight gas (22.6 MMcm/d).


Methane Fears Cloud Argentina’s Shale Oil And Gas Future

(Financial Times, Benedict Mander, 23.Sep.2018) — Green energy groups say huge shale oil and gas reserve is leaking greenhouse gases.

Jorge Daniel Taillant used a $100,000 infrared camera this year to investigate whether oil and gas installations in Vaca Muerta were leaking toxic gases. The grainy black-and-white thermal images that the ecology activist took confirmed what he suspected.

Although invisible to the naked eye, gases were detected seeping into the atmosphere from every one of the sites he visited. Particularly significant was methane, a potent greenhouse gas.

“Methane is leaking everywhere,” says Mr Taillant, executive director of the Center for Human Rights and Environment, a non-governmental organisation founded in Argentina and now based in the US. He says at least 5 per cent of Vaca Muerta gas produced is lost, often leaked intentionally when pressure needs to be released.

“There is a history of abuse as no one is controlling the sector,” says Mr Taillant. “And that’s not going to change any time soon — there is no credible environmental authority.”

Argentina’s ambitions to develop Vaca Muerta are ringing alarm bells among environmentalists, since it is considered to be one of the few remaining significant but mostly undeveloped energy reserves left on the planet.

As such, some experts say the development of Vaca Muerta and other comparable resources in Venezuela and Russia could jeopardise the UN 2016 Paris Agreement on climate change.

“If Argentina is to fully develop Vaca Muerta, it would blow a hole in the carbon budget,” argues Guy Edwards, co-director of Brown University’s climate and development lab in the US.

“It is one of the key reserves that, according to climate science, should stay underground if there is a chance of achieving the Paris goals,” he adds.

Most recognise it is unrealistic to expect Argentina to leave Vaca Muerta untouched. Its development is considered a national priority across the political spectrum, given its potential as an engine for economic growth. Javier Iguacel, the energy secretary, ridiculed the idea that Argentina might simply stop exploiting its hydrocarbons. “ Norway is not going to stop producing oil, and nor are we,” he says.

Argentina’s energy-related emissions are projected to increase 45 per cent between 2010 and 2030, according to the Berlin-based non-profit institute Climate Analytics, largely because of Vaca Muerta. Few expect Buenos Aires to meet its commitment to the Paris Agreement. Like every other country, its goals were not very ambitious to begin with, says Mr Edwards.

Instead, activists are pushing to mitigate the problems that can be controlled, with methane being “far and above the biggest issue from a climate perspective”, says Jonathan Banks, senior policy adviser at the Clean Air Task Force, a green energy advocate.

Although carbon dioxide stays in the atmosphere for as long as 1,000 years, methane begins to disappear after 20, during which time it is more than 80 times more potent than carbon dioxide in warming the climate, Mr Banks says.

Fortunately, he adds, methane is also one of the easiest and cheapest climate problems to deal with. That is why many countries and regions such as Canada, Mexico and California have focused on methane emissions when finding ways to meet Paris targets.

“Good maintenance, better equipment and installations, and just good practices can dramatically reduce emissions from these developments,” Mr Banks adds. “As far as climate change goes, it’s cheap stuff. It’s not a nuclear power plant, it’s tightening bolts.”

A study by the International Energy Agency found it is possible to reduce global methane emissions from the oil and gas industry by up to half at no net cost. That would be equivalent to shutting down every coal plant active in China today, the report says.

Yet even if Argentina succeeds in reducing methane emissions, there is the broader question of whether developing Vaca Muerta makes strategic sense, given how environmental concerns and technological advances are shaking up the energy sector.

The Inter-American Development Bank recently highlighted the danger of “stranded assets”, given that renewable energy is becoming increasingly competitive, warning that countries could be stuck with fossil fuel infrastructure that may become obsolete faster than expected. Others, such as Brown University’s Mr Edwards, say backing fossil fuels risks curtailing interest in renewable energy.

Argentina’s plan is to supply its own market with renewable energy and the gas from Vaca Muerta, which officials say is cleaner than other options. This is despite concerns from environmental lobbyists that leaking methane could be just as bad as the pollution from coal-fired power stations. If Argentina manages to fulfil its goal of becoming a net exporter of gas, this could even help China rely less on its dirty coal-fired power stations, indirectly aiding the environment, Mr Iguacel says.

“What’s the timeframe?” Mr Edwards asks. “If most countries are on some kind of path to decarbonising their energy sectors, do you really want to be pumping billions into an industry that is looking like it is on the way out in the coming decades?”


Unlocking the Potential of Argentina’s Oil and Gas Resources

(Chevron, Clay Neff, 23.Sep.2018) — ‘A stable and predictable business environment is essential to draw the investment capital needed,’ says Chevron Africa and Latin America Exploration and Production Company President Clay Neff.

Argentina is one of the few nations outside North America that has the potential to replicate its neighbour’s shale revolution.

The unconventional oil and gas resources in Argentina’s Vaca Muerta shale formation are world class. As such, their level of productivity can compete with any of the shale formations at the centre of the US oil and gas boom — and that includes the prime US area of the Permian basin in Texas.

The Argentine government has taken important steps toward creating an environment that encourages investment in Vaca Muerta.

We at Chevron believe that, if the right conditions continue, this large resource will bring additional investment, continued employment and economic growth to the country while helping to meet the growing global demand for affordable, reliable energy.

Vaca Muerta’s current production of about 160,000 barrels of oil equivalent a day could grow to almost 900,000 boe/d by 2024 if the country can attract $4bn of investment a year, according to consultancy Wood Mackenzie.

A stable and predictable business environment is essential to draw the investment capital needed to ensure Vaca Muerta reaches its potential. A key task for industry executives is to analyse how a country’s risk-reward calculus matches up against others competing for investment. It will be particularly important for Argentina’s government to adhere to free market principles.

Reducing drilling and production costs by increasing efficiencies is also important to attract more investment to Vaca Muerta. A key reason the shale revolution has seen such success in the US in the past few years is that companies have become highly efficient in their operations through process improvements and new technologies.

In partnership with Argentina’s national oil company, YPF, Chevron has made great strides in improving hydrocarbon recovery and lowering drilling costs at our Loma Campana joint venture in the Vaca Muerta shale. Horizontal wells and advanced completion techniques are leading to recoveries competitive with areas of the Permian basin.

Last year, our unit development cost, the cost per barrel, decreased 25 per cent compared with 2016. Furthermore, we expect costs to go even lower and close to the levels seen in areas such as Permian’s Midland basin.

Sustaining lower production costs will require better infrastructure. The Neuquén basin, where Vaca Muerta is located, has enough infrastructure to support the production levels of old as far as conventional oil and gas resources are concerned. However, more is required to achieve the large-scale development that will fulfil its much greater potential.

Significant steps in the right direction have been taken with the planned construction of new railroads and pipelines. But more is needed to ensure the area is internationally competitive.

Chevron, one of the largest foreign investors in the Vaca Muerta shale, continues to do its share to advance the development of this resource. In partnership with YPF, we have increased drilling from two to three rigs at our Loma Campana project. We are seeing continued improvement in performance thanks in part to the use of best practices from unconventional oil and gas areas in the US.

We are also looking at the Vaca Muerta shale in other parts of the Neuquén basin. In our El Trapial field, for example, we will be executing an eight-well appraisal programme to assess the potential of its unconventional reserves.

Argentina is on the right path to make the large-scale development of Vaca Muerta a reality. The responsible development of the extensive unconventional oil and natural gas resources has the potential to be an once-in-a-lifetime economic engine for the country.

Clay Neff is the president of Chevron Africa and Latin America Exploration and Production Company


Argentina’s Conventional Oil and Gas Attract Explorers

(Ft.com, Charles Newberry, 23.Sep.2019) — Fresh discovery indicates life beyond Vaca Muerta.

A few years ago, when the giant shale play of Vaca Muerta was starting to lure oil majors such as Chevron, ExxonMobil and Shell to Argentina’s south-west, a small company called Roch struck oil far away at the country’s southern tip.

The result surprised Ricardo Chacra, the company’s president. Roch had found oil in Tierra del Fuego, traditionally a source of natural gas, in a formation that had not been thought to hold much promise after more than a century of exploration in Argentina.

“We found something new,” Mr Chacra says. The find has fuelled optimism that Argentina’s mature conventional oil and gas reservoirs may have more to give. “When you drill into a mature field, you expect to drill into a squeezed lemon,” Mr Chacra says. “You take out what you can. But sometimes you find a virgin lemon.”

Argentina first struck oil early last century on the mainland of southern Patagonia, about 1,000km north of Tierra del Fuego, and exploration and production spread to the west and north-west. Argentina has the fourth-largest proven oil reserves in South America, trailing Venezuela, Brazil and Ecuador and equal with Colombia. But production and reserves sagged under the populist Peronist governments of 2003-15, as price controls and other regulation deterred exploration.

President Mauricio Macri has been removing such constraints to bring capital back to Argentina and his policies have attracted several oil majors. Most of them, however, are going to exploit Vaca Muerta’s shale, the source of unconventional oil and gas that is promising to make Argentina an energy powerhouse for the Americas as a whole.

While a handful of smaller companies has wanted to invest in Vaca Muerta, “it’s incredibly expensive”, says Fiona MacAulay, chief executive of London-based Echo Energy. Instead her company is exploring three conventional blocks in the south of the country at what she estimates to be a 100th of the cost of Vaca Muerta acreage.

Thanks to Argentina’s long history of oil activity, talent, services and infrastructure are available. Gas is delivered by pipeline to Buenos Aires and there are ports to handle oil storage and deliveries.

“The big conventional finds have already been made in Argentina,” says Hugo Giampaoli of local energy consultants GiGa. Even so, they have more to offer. Luciano Fucello, country manager for Houston-based services company NCS Multistage, estimates that only 20 per cent of Argentina’s oil has been recovered.

Daniel Kokogian, a director of Argentina’s Compañía General de Combustibles, says his company has more than doubled its gas output over the past two years in the south, and expects to find “a lot” of conventional oil to recover.

Such potential may not be enough to attract the big guns away from Vaca Muerta but a number of small independents are still taking a shot at a more conventional oil and gas approach.

Canada-based Madalena Energy, for example, is using the cash flow from conventional output to finance drilling in costly Vaca Muerta, says its chief executive, José Penafiel. He estimates that while it takes five to six years to generate a positive cash flow in Vaca Muerta, conventional projects pay back in two to three years.

For companies such as his, which are on far tighter budgets than the majors, he says, “you have to make sure you have the sufficient cash flow to stay in the game long enough to see the value creation of the bigger shale plays”.

An alternative is to push offshore. Several small UK companies, such as London-based Premier Oil and Rockhopper, of Salisbury, Wiltshire, in the south of England, have explored waters around the Falkland Islands that are claimed by Argentina. While still in the pre-development phase, these companies’ finds could spur bids for acreage in Argentine waters in a bidding round, the first in two decades, proposed for this year. “Pretty much every major I know is looking to bid in that offshore round,” Ms MacAulay says.

“Offshore is the last big question mark for exploration in Argentina,” says Mr Kokogian. Much hope is being pinned on waters about 300km-400km from the coast in depths of more than 1,500m. “We have to go to see what is there,” Mr Kokogian adds. “The prize could be big, or very big.”


Excelerate Energy, TGS Sign Deal to Study Liquefaction Project in Bahía Blanca

(Excelerate Energy L.P., 10.Sep.2018) — Excelerate Energy L.P. and Transportadora de Gas del Sur S.A. announced the execution of a Memorandum of Understanding to jointly collaborate on the assessment of a liquefaction project in the city of Bahía Blanca, Argentina. Argentina currently imports liquefied natural gas (LNG) through two floating import terminals, particularly during the country’s peak winter consumption. The successful development of Argentina’s shale gas reserves resulted in a potential excess of natural gas during the summer months. The project aims at studying the technical and commercial viability of liquefying and exporting natural gas during the summer season, allowing a more sustainable development of shale gas resources and reducing Argentina’s annual natural gas net import needs. The study is expected to be completed by the end of 2018, at which time Excelerate and TGS will share the results with government and industry officials and decide on further actions towards the implementation of the Project.

“Given the high seasonality of Argentina’s natural gas consumption, LNG has played a critical role in meeting the country’s energy demands,” stated Excelerate’s Chief Commercial Officer Daniel Bustos. “This Project will significantly enhance Argentina’s capacity to maximize the use of local resources by allowing a more predictable development of shale gas production while reducing the overall costs of importing LNG.”

TGS is carrying out an important midstream project aimed at the transportation and conditioning of the natural gas production derived from the Vaca Muerta Basin, located in the province of Neuquén, Argentina. This Project represents an essential contribution to the development of shale gas reserves, promoted by the National and Provincial Governments, as it will ensure the infrastructure required to inject incremental gas production to the main transportation systems.

“Carrying out LNG production through the Project will be key to promote the development of unconventional gas, since it will allow to expand the scale of the gas market, increasing export opportunities, after having met domestic market needs in Argentina,” stated TGS’ Chief Commercial Officer Néstor Martín.

Both Excelerate and TGS have been critical players in the growth of the Argentine energy industry. Currently, one hundred percent of LNG imported and regasified into the country is through Excelerate’s two floating storage and regasification units (FSRUs). Excelerate developed South America’s first LNG import terminal in 2008 in Bahía Blanca, following with the second terminal in 2011 in Escobar, Argentina. TGS is the leading natural gas transportation company in Argentina and owns and operates South America’s largest pipeline network. The project underscores both party’s commitment to seeing Argentina’s energy sector become more sustainable for the long term.


Argentina: Exploration And Production Snapshots

(Deloitte, 31.Aug.2018) — In the wake of a decade-long slump in Argentina’s oil and gas industry, the country is now well positioned to resurrect international investment and exploit its world-class resources to their full potential. With the support of a new pro-business government and the discovery of massive shale potential in the Vaca Muerta basin, the road to revitalizing Argentina’s natural gas-based economy is clear: attract skilled workers, upgrade its infrastructure, and adopt new technologies to spark the first shale revolution outside of North America.

Read the full report here by Deloitte.



Argentina Re-ignites Labor Deal to Spur Investment in Vaca Muerta

(Reuters, Eliana Raszewski, 28.Aug.2018) — Argentina relaunched a one-year-old agreement between the government, companies and workers on Tuesday to drive competition and spur development in the Vaca Muerta shale play, the government said in a statement.

The original agreement, signed just over a year ago, sought to boost production by incentivizing competition among oil and gas drillers in the region. The government is now looking to bring in other business sectors like construction and mid-stream service providers.

“We are not going to stop until we export $30 billion in gas and oil from Vaca Muerta,” President Mauricio Macri told employees of state-controlled energy company YPF during a meeting with them in the southwestern province of Nequen.

Argentina is trying to double production in the region, aiming to pump 260 million cubic meters of gas daily within five years, the government said in the statement. Of that, 100 million cubic meters per day would be destined for international markets, according to the government’s plans.

YPF presented its proposal to small and medium-sized businesses involved in the oil and gas supply chain earlier this year, in an effort to drive competition, the statement said.

“We want to increase production by 100 to 130 fractures per month, which can be achieved by working with unions and supply companies,” YPF President Miguel Gutierrez said.

YPF, with its partners, has invested $8.4 billion in the region. It is the leading investor in Vaca Muerta, one of the largest non-conventional oil and gas formations in the world.

In June, companies in Vaca Muerta increased oil production by 5 percent compared with the same month last year. Gas production increased 8.2 percent over the same period, according to data from the Energy Ministry.


Argentina Gas Auctions to Begin in August

(Reuters, 19.Jul.2018) – Argentina’s electricity generators will be able to begin bidding for their natural gas supply beginning in August, President Mauricio Macri said, as the country gradually moves away from controls on energy markets.

The change comes as rising output in the Vaca Muerta shale play moves the country closer to a gas surplus. An official said earlier this month that such auctions could account for as much as 70 percent of wholesale supply in March or April of 2019, as the government phases out the current fixed-contract system. (Reporting by Luc Cohen; Editing by Sandra Maler)


Pampa Reaches 35-Year Deal in Sierra Chata Block

(Pampa Energía S.A., 10.Jul.2018) – Pampa Energía S.A. announced an Investment Agreement was executed with the Neuquén province, which will grant a new 35-year concession for unconventional hydrocarbon exploitation at the Sierra Chata block (the ‘Block’), aiming at the development of unconventional shale and tight gas in the Vaca Muerta and the Mulichinco formations, respectively.

The Block is located 93 miles northwest of Neuquén city and accounts an area of 213 thousand acres. Currently, the Block produces natural gas from the Mulichinco formation (compact sands or tight gas), with 69 productive wells and 45 million cubic feet of daily net production. Pampa is the operator of the Block and holds 45.6% stake, jointly with Mobil Argentina S.A. and Total Austral S.A. Argentina Branch, with a participation of 51.0% and 3.4%, respectively (the ‘Consortium’).

In consideration for obtaining the new concession, the Consortium committed to make an investment in the Block for an amount of $520 million during the next 5 years (of which Pampa will contribute the corresponding amount according to its share participation), with the objective to continue developing the Mulichinco formation and explore the potential of the Vaca Muerta formation. Moreover, the Consortium disbursed an exploitation bond and a contribution to corporate social responsibility for US$30 million.


Argentina to Free Retail Fuel Prices

(Reuters, Luc Cohen, 1.Jul.2018) – Argentina will allow fuel retailers to freely set pump prices starting in August, according to an Energy Ministry official familiar with the plan, a move that could encourage badly needed investment in the nation’s oil patch but risks worsening sky-high inflation and angering consumers.

Separately, the ministry is looking to set up an auction process for the natural-gas market that it hopes will lower prices, according to the official, who was not authorized to speak publicly.

The actions signal that President Mauricio Macri is moving ahead with free-market reforms to attract private investment to develop the nation’s abundant shale oil reserves, even as rising global oil prices and a precipitous weakening of the nation’s currency have led to pressure for more interventionist government policies.

The moves will also bring relief to the oil sector. Price controls have squeezed refiners’ margins, prompting one refinery to suspend operations.

Macri’s pro-business government freed fuel prices last year, part of its efforts to unwind state controls on Argentina’s economy. But his administration reversed course in May due to a rapid decline in the peso. The sudden depreciation rattled markets and prompted Argentina to turn to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for emergency financing.

In May, the government reached a deal for a two-month freeze on pump prices with the three largest oil companies operating in Argentina: state-owned YPF, Shell, and BP’s Pan American Energy. It later set the price of domestic crude at $68, about $10 below the global Brent crude price, to mitigate the impact of freezing fuel prices on refiners’ margins.

By freeing pump prices, the government is betting that gas stations will limit price hikes to avoid losing customers, the official said, and that by freeing crude prices it would encourage more investment in domestic drilling, part of a long-term strategy to wean Argentina from petroleum imports.

“Price controls do not help with anything,” the official said.

The government and the oil companies agreed to loosen the freeze June 1, allowing for hikes of 5 percent in June and 3 percent in July. Macri’s administration had kept the industry guessing as to what it might do in August.

The earlier increases were unsatisfactory to oil industry players, three of whom complained privately to Reuters that the modest bumps did not come close to covering their increased costs.

Last month, global trader Trafigura announced it was suspending activities at its 30,500 barrel-per-day refinery in the port city of Bahia Blanca due to the “mismatch between fuel prices and production and import costs.”

An oil industry executive who spoke with Reuters recently expressed frustration with the bind.

“The adjustment that needs to be done is not 3 percent, it is 45 percent,” said the person, who requested anonymity to speak freely.


An end to retail price caps would likely infuriate Argentine consumers, who are already incensed at the government for the drop in the peso and inflation that is running at a 26.3 percent annual clip.

But Macri’s government has prioritized reviving the energy sector to shake Argentina’s dependence on imported oil and gas, and to put an end to market-distorting subsidies.

Argentina possesses the world’s second-largest reserves of shale natural gas and ranks No. 4 in reserves of shale oil, mostly in the Vaca Muerta fields in Patagonia. But it faces stiff competition to attract the billions in private investment needed to develop these resources. Oil production is languishing at multi-decade lows.

The picture is brighter with natural gas. Rising output in Vaca Muerta helped boost the country’s production by 3.4 percent in the first quarter of 2018 compared with the same period last year, according to government data.

“We are beginning to have an abundance of gas in Argentina,” the Energy Ministry official said.

As a result, the ministry will create an auction process for wholesale customers to bid on the open market for their natural gas supplies during the low-demand summer months, the official said. The plan is to phase out the current fixed-contract system in a move the government hopes will lower prices.

The auctions could start in September or October, and could account for as much as 70 percent of wholesale supply by March or April of 2019, the official said.

Argentina is also expected to begin gas exports to Chile in the fourth quarter of this year, another result of rising Vaca Muerta output.

Argentina will still need to import liquefied natural gas (LNG) to meet demand in winter months.


Argentina Gears Up For Offshore Licensing Round

(E&Pmag, Brunno Braga, 25.Jun.2018) — Argentina is working to increase its attractiveness in the energy sector in a region where other countries such as Brazil, Guyana and Mexico have lured investment from major oil companies.

The South American country is about to launch its first round of offshore licensing after nearly three decades. Argentina’s Energy Minister Juan Jose Aranguren recently told investors during an event in Houston that the goal is to expand exploration for long-term production growth in what is considered one of the world’s practically unexplored offshore areas.

Argentina plans to launch the licensing round in July when officials will also announce when bids will be awarded. Expectations are that the auction, which will cover roughly 240,000 sq km in three areas, will be held by the end of the year.

The areas include:

— 5,000 sq km in the Austral Basin, the southernmost basin in the country;

— Roughly 80,000 sq km in the western Malvinas Basin; and

— 170,000 sq km in Plataforma del Norte Argentino.

Due to the greater risks associated with offshore drilling, the licensing contract will grant 10 years for exploratory activities.

“The round offers risky but attractive frontier exploration acreage. An oil system has been proved in shallow waters with over 100 offshore wells drilled to date,” said Horacio Cuenca, research director, upstream Latin America, for Wood Mackenzie. “The majors and independent explorers will be attracted by the large block size, competitive fiscal regime and low upfront entry cost. We expect the majority of the blocks to receive bids.”

In the short term the round will have a limited impact on the oil industry and the wider economy despite Argentina’s need to expand its oil and gas industry, according to Cuenca. Yet, he believes the round will enlarge the footprint of majors and bring back focus to the offshore after years of little activity. “Only in the medium term, if significant commercial discoveries are made, it would have the potential to significantly change the upstream landscape of the country.

The oil and gas regulatory framework in Argentina can be seen as an advantage for oil companies that want to do business in the country. As Reuters reported recently,  oil firms, including Norway’s Equinor, U.S.’ Anadarko Petroleum Corp., China’s CNOOC and Malaysia’s Petronas, have shown interest in Argentina’s auction, indicating that offshore areas in the region could be on the verge of expanded E&P activities.

But Cuenca asserted that some of the offshore specific terms will need updating.

“There are some questions remaining around unitization. But the government designed the contractual and fiscal regimes with the high level of competition for investment in mind,” he said. “Companies’ exploration budgets have been halved, on average, from their highest levels in 2014. And countries and governments are competing for that reduced investment, so only the most attractive terms will drive exploration investment.”


The fact that Brazil has been successful in attracting investments in the offshore segment does not pose a threat to Argentina’s ambitions to create opportunities off its coast, according to Cuenca.

“It is not possible to do a direct comparison between discovered resources (fields) with exploration potential,” he said. “Brazil has very mature areas and proven basins like the Campos and Santos basins, and other untested basins with frontier exploration potential (like Pelotas) similar to the ones on offer in the Argentina bid round.”

He said that attractiveness, in the end, depends on the type of company. “Some companies are looking to grow their portfolios through high-impact exploration, and to them Argentina’s offshore acreage presents an attractive opportunity given the size of the blocks and the low cost of entry.”

In addition, Argentina is home to the Vaca Muerta shale play, one of the largest and most prospective onshore fields in the world, and its players could be drawn to the country’s offshore segment, according to Cuenca.

According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, Argentina’s Vaca Muerta makes up about 60% of the country’s 27 billion barrels of technically recoverable shale oil reserves, making it the fourth largest shale oil reserve in the world.

Majors such as Exxon Mobil, Royal Dutch Shell, Total, BP and Wintershall are making larges investments in the area seeking to take advantage of Vaca Muerta’s giant resources.

“It has definitely been an advantage for the country to have most of the majors already present in the Vaca Muerta play,” he said. “The offshore and unconventional play offerings are complementary offerings for the majors. With the companies already present in country, they can go after both opportunities with the same overhead and established operational base.”



Rick Perry Wants Argentina be More Like Texas

(Bloomberg, 17.Jun.2018) – The U.S. government is getting in on a shale boom 5,000 mi (8,000 km) from home.

Energy Secretary Rick Perry will help Argentina connect with U.S. companies that have shale oil and gas expertise as President Mauricio Macri — facing a natural gas trade deficit — hurries to replicate the success of the Permian basin, in Perry’s home state of Texas.

Fostering energy production from a regional ally will bolster the geopolitical influence of the U.S., Perry told reporters in Bariloche, Argentina.

“One of the things that I offered Juan Jose is U.S. technology partnerships, to make the introductions with the private sector,” Perry said, referring to Juan Jose Aranguren, Macri’s energy minister. “The technology that has allowed for the shale gas revolution in America we want to make available to Argentina.”

Perry was meeting Aranguren and other G20 counterparts in snow-covered Bariloche to discuss a global transition to cleaner energy — especially gas. Argentina is ramping up production of the fuel in Vaca Muerta, the Patagonian shale play where Chevron Corp. and DowDuPont Inc. were among the first to get drilling going.

Argentina’s state-run YPF SA, the biggest operator in Vaca Muerta, sees the next phase of shale development driven by mid-cap independent companies lured from the Permian. Their arrival will increase competition and, in turn, slash costs, Aranguren told reporters in Bariloche.

Now, Perry wants to add to that, bringing in U.S. pipeline developers to expand the play’s infrastructure and petrochemical companies to process the hydrocarbons once they’ve been moved out of the isolated shale fields.

Boosting output in Vaca Muerta, one of the world’s largest shale plays that remains largely untapped, will help the U.S. to direct geopolitics amid fractious relationships with major oil producers Russia and Venezuela, Perry said.

“Being able to not be held hostage by countries who don’t share our values is really important,” Perry said. “President Macri’s policies are right in line with U.S. values.”

Perry will advise Argentina — already facing transportation bottlenecks as YPF and billionaire Paolo Rocca’s Tecpetrol SA spur gas production — on avoiding pipeline capacity issues that have begun to plague the Permian, he said.

Transportadora de Gas del Sur SA recently announced it will build a $300-million gas pipeline in Vaca Muerta.

Perry will visit Vaca Muerta in the near future, Aranguren said.

Argentina to Export Natural Gas to Chile by YE:18

(Reuters, Luc Cohen, 14.Jun.2018) – Argentina will begin exporting natural gas to neighboring Chile before the end of the year, the energy ministers of both countries said on Thursday, as output from the Vaca Muerta shale field rises.

The two South American countries had previously signed deals allowing for the export of gas or electricity in emergency situations, but required that an equivalent amount be re-imported within twelve months.

Chilean companies are in talks to sign import deals and the first flow of gas across the Andes could come in October or November of this year, Chile energy minister Susana Jimenez said in an interview in Bariloche, Argentina at the G20 Meeting of Energy Ministers.

“We see a great opportunity for mutual benefit,” she said, adding that the gas could come both from the Neuquen basin, home to Vaca Muerta, and from the Austral basin in southern Argentina.

The gas could be used for electricity generation, replacing imports from elsewhere, or to heat homes in areas where families still depend on wood, a source of pollution in the center-south region, Jimenez said. Chile produces little hydrocarbons of its own.

The unrestricted exports would mark a turning point in energy trade in the region. Argentina was once a major supplier of natural gas to Chile, but triggered a diplomatic crisis in the mid-2000s by cutting off shipments when its own supplies ran low.

Argentina sits atop the world’s No. 2 shale gas reserves but is still a net energy importer. Since taking office in December 2015, President Mauricio Macri has sought to loosen labor rules and boost infrastructure to attract investment.

Rising output from Vaca Muerta could help the country export more than it imports by 2021, Argentina’s energy minister Juan Jose Aranguren said at a news conference. The country is set to import slightly more than 50 cargoes of liquefied natural gas (LNG) this year, down from 68 last year and 90 in 2015.

Argentina still needs the LNG imports to meet peak winter demand, but in the southern hemisphere summer months it could see a surplus, Aranguren said.

“This summer we will start to sign permits for exporting natural gas to Chile without any restrictions,” he said.

TGS To Build Vaca Muerta Gas Pipeline, Conditioning Plant

(Reuters, 3.Apr.2018) — Argentine natural gas company Transportadora de Gas del Sur (TGS) will invest an initial $250 million on gas transportation infrastructure in 2018 and 2019 in the Vaca Muerta shale fields, the company said on Tuesday.

TGS said in a filing it would build a 92-kilometer (57-mile) gathering pipeline with 1.3 billion cubic feet per day capacity and later a conditioning plant to adapt the quality of natural gas before it enters the transport pipelines.

Overall investment will eventually reach an estimated $800 million with additional expansions planned, the company said.

Insufficient transportation infrastructure has held back oil and gas production and investment in Vaca Muerta, the world’s second-largest shale fields.

The TGS plant will have an initial capacity of 177 million cubic feet per day with expandable modules of up to 2.0 billion cubic feet per day.

Reuters reported last October that TGS, controlled by Pampa Energia, was planning the $800 million investment in natural gas infrastructure, citing a company source.

The pipeline will cross the Bajada de Añelo, Bajo del Choique, La Invernada, Pampa de las Yeguas I y II, Parva Negra Este y Oeste, La Escalonada, Rincón La Ceniza, Los Toldos Norte, Sur, Este y Oeste, La Calera, El Orejano abd Sierra Chata areas.

(Reporting by Juliana Castilla; Writing by Caroline Stauffer)

TGS to Invest $250 Mln in Infrastructure to Transport Vaca Muerta Gas Production

(Transportadora de Gas del Sur S.A., 3.Apr.2018) — Transportadora de Gas del Sur S.A. (TGS) executed an agreed minute with the Undersecretary of Energy, Mining and Hydrocarbons of the Province of Neuquén and Gas y Petróleo del Neuquén S.A. (GyP), whereby TGS is granted a concession to build and operate a gathering pipeline which will cross a number of fields in the Vaca Muerta formation; in addition, TGS will build and operate a conditioning plant.

It should be pointed out execution of the agreemend is subject to approval by the Provincial Executive Branch, through the issuance of the corresponding Provincial Decree in the Official Gazette of the Province of Neuquén; as from which date it will come into effect. In addition, to make the project feasible, TGS entered into natural gas transportation and conditioning agreements with certain natural gas producers.

The gathering pipeline, which will connect the Rincón La Ceniza area to the main transportation systems, will have a transportation capacity of 1.3 billion of cubic feet per day (Bcf/d) -expandable to 2.0 Bcf/d-, a length of 57 miles, a 36” diameter and will operate at a 97 Kg/cm2 pressure.

The conditioning plant, which will adapt the quality of the natural gas before it enters the main natural gas transportation pipelines, will have an initial capacity of 177 million cubic feet per day (MMcf/d), expandable in modules up to 2.0 Bcf/d.

The amount of the investment related to the project’s first stage amounts to $250 million and its execution will be implemented throughout the rest of the year 2018 and during part of the year 2019.

The project represents an essential contribution to the development of the Vaca Muerta hydrocarbon formation, and both the National Government and that of the Province of Neuquén are highly interested in it, as it will provide the infrastructure required for the incremental natural gas production to enter the main natural gas transportation systems. For TGS, the development of the project underscores its interest in the Argentine energy industry growth.


Energy Analytics Institute (EAI): #LatAmNRG

Argentina to Develop Tight Shale Oil, Gas

(OGJ, Nick Snow, 27.Mar.2018) — With the largest shale gas resources and tight oil deposits second only to those of the US in the Western Hemisphere, Argentina is trying to attract more foreign investments by continuing to improve government policies, speakers said during a Mar. 27 discussion at the Inter-American Dialogue. But the South American nation faces substantive challenges as it tries to make operating conditions there more transparent and predictable, they added.

“Our general economy has grown for seven consecutive quarters, and poverty is going down,” said Fernando Oris de Rosa, Argentina’s ambassador to the US. “Foreign direct investment grew to $10.7 billion in 2017, and we’d like more. Fiscal and tax reforms have been passed, and discussions with organized labor are planned. Ultimately, we want to move from populism to transparent, realistic policies which become permanent.”

More reforms need to move from transitions to permanence, said Omar Gutierrez, governor of Neuquen province where most of the tight oil and gas supplies are in the Vaca Muerta formation.

“We eliminated gas and oil retentions and installed a pricing regime that has encouraged development. We also have done away with consumption subsidies and allowed prices to rise. With drilling costs half of what they were, unconventional oil and gas now has a greater share of our province’s total production, and 20-22% of Argentina’s,” he said.

Argentina has become the only Latin American country on a par with the US due to the alignment of its government at several levels with all the stakeholders, said Paolo Carvajal, a consulting member at international management services firm Arthur D. Little’s Houston office. “Today, we can talk about a 50% gain in efficiency per square foot there. Multinationals like ExxonMobil, Chevron, and Shell are there along with YPF, the national oil company,” she said.

“We expect that in 2025, Argentina’s oil and gas production will have tripled. But it will need to overcome challenges, including infrastructure, investment climate stability, unions, developing qualified human resources and an oil services sector, and smoothly adopting natural gas market prices,” Carvajal said.

From pilots to development

Gutierrez noted that of Argentina’s 26 tight shale oil and gas concessions, three are being developed now and three to four more are expected to get under way soon. “We have a plan all the actors are monitoring and are involved in. Tonight, I will be in Houston for an event where I expect to discuss this in more detail. We’ve seen capital from many sources and expect to see more projects move from the pilot to the development phase,” he noted.

“We want to make our energy prices competitive so the rest of the country’s economy can follow,” said Gutierrez. “We also have begun to export gas to Chile, with generally good results. Vaca Muerta will give us an efficient energy hub which will drive our national economy.”

Carvajal said, “Argentina has been fortunate because it has been able to develop unconventional resources without as much local and labor opposition as in other Latin American countries. But local issues will need to be addressed. This alignment has let Argentina lead the unconventional resources charge in Latin America. But investments will be needed in other sectors as well.”

Full stakeholder participation is essential, Gutierrez said. “We have a comprehensive plan with dynamic properties. Companies also have shared what they have learned. This has led to a constructive dialogue where all the actors are contributing,” he said.

Carvajal said Argentina President Mauricio Marci’s government has enacted several good reforms, but oil and gas multinationals have long memories and face equally long waits before prospects being producing. “We’re talking about production that would begin 35 years in the future, so the situation could change,” she suggested.

Gutierrez thinks that this looks increasingly less likely. “The government is one of four main actors. It is putting many ideas forward, but everyone else is participating too,” he said. “We’ve done a lot in 3 years. Vaca Muerta has shown what can be done. There is not a single negative result in the pilot programs so the companies will continue to invest. We also are about to announce plans for a huge new gas pipeline so companies will be able to move what they produce to their customers.”


Tecpetrol Opens Gas Treatment Plant in Vaca Muerta

(ARPEL, February 6, 2018) — Tecpetrol, an oil company of the Techint Group and member of ARPEL, opened a gas treatment plant located in the vicinity of Añelo, Neuquén, with Governor of the Province of Neuquén Omar Gutiérrez and Minister of Energy and Mines of Argentina Juan J. Aranguren. This plant will process the unconventional gas produced in the Fortín de Piedra deposit of the Vaca Muerta formation. 1st plant

Also present at the opening ceremony were Senator Guillermo Pereyra, Secretary General of the Union of Private Oil and Gas Workers, and Manuel Arévalo, General Secretary of the Union of Oil and Gas Professional and Senior Staff. Representatives of Tecpetrol present were Carlos Ormachea, President and CEO of Tecpetrol, Horacio Marín, Director General of Tecpetrol Exploration and Production (E&P), and Pablo Iuliano, Technical Director of the Neuquén Basin.

With an investment of more than US$ 30 million, the plant has a processing capacity of 6.5 million cubic meters of gas per day (m3/d). The new facilities will allow increasing the production of gas from 1.5 million m3/d to 6.5 million m3/d. With this, the first phase of the Fortín de Piedra project will be completed. A total investment of US$ 2,300 million is planned up to 2019 for this project.

To date, Tecpetrol has invested approximately US$ 700 million in the Fortín de Piedra project, which has already created more than 3500 direct jobs. During the last quarter of 2017, the gas production was 1.5 million m3/d, and it is estimated that it will reach 5 m3/d by the end of February. At present, the activity is performed with six oil drilling units.

Techint Engineering and Construction

The construction of the gas treatment plant of Tecpetrol was carried out by Techint Engineering and Construction, which is also part of the Techint Group. It was completed in six months, a record time for works of these characteristics; it involved more than 280 thousand man-hours with peaks of 120 people working. The design, construction and assembly was fully modular, with around 60 modules provided locally by companies of the value chain of the Techint Group in Argentina.

At the same time, the company is moving forward with the construction of the Central Gas Plant of Tecpetrol, whose startup is estimated for June 2018. With a treatment capacity of more than 14 million m3/day of gas, the final investment for this plant will be around US$ 280 million. In addition, Techint Engineering and Construction is working in the water intake and gas pipelines for Tecpetrol production.


Vaca Muerta Megaproject – A Fracking Carbon Bomb In Patagonia

(Observatorio Petrolero Sur, 5.Feb.2018) — Vaca Muerta is a leading case for the next generation of fossil fuels. Big Oil and Gas companies are keen to turn it into a success story —which is why we collectively need to put a stop to this if we are serious about restricting oil and gas supply globally, protecting territories and fighting climate change. It is our view that “Killing the Dead Cow”—and thus preventing a further expansion of the fossil fuel industry that would be a door-opener for further projects in the Global South— is necessary to build up pressure for an honest dialogue about “managed decline” and fair transition. The collective success of movements in an emblematic case like this would increase leverage for such a conversation.

Briefing: Vaca Muerta shale play – climate impacts, wealth concentration and human rights abuses.

Argentina ranks in second and fourth place globally in shale gas and shale oil resources. Almost all of this potential is concentrated in “Vaca Muerta” (“Dead Cow”), which has been identified as the biggest shale play outside North America and makes Argentina the third country, after the United States, and Canada, to reach commercial development. Vaca Muerta is presented as a test case for the Global South, and especially for the Latin American region, where several governments are proposing new unconventional projects.

Total estimated resources amount to 19.9 billion barrels of oil and 583 trillion cubic feet of gas. They represent around 50 billion tons of CO2 that are currently locked in the ground which can only be extracted with hydraulic fracturing (or fracking), a highly controversial technique which has been banned in several countries or sub-national entities.

Although it is still at an early stage of development (2 to 4%, 1,500 fracking wells), almost every oil major is present in the region. Ventures include YPF, Chevron, Total, Dow Petrochemical, Petronas, Schlumberger, Shell, Pan American Energy (BP, CNOOC, and Bridas), Wintershall, Statoil, Gazprom, and ExxonMobil.

International involvement is crucial for funding (estimated at tens of billions of dollars), capacity building and governance. Other involved actors include U.S. Department of State, World Bank, Inter-American Development Bank, Citibank, ICBC, and Deutsche Bank.

Regulation and policy enforcement is scarce. Its early development is currently infringing on a range of individual and collective human rights in working-class neighborhoods, indigenous communities, agriculture regions, and protected areas. Fracking is an experimental technique so various accidents have been recorded: radioactive pills have been lost in wells, wells have gone up in flames due to gas leaks, truck accidents have caused spills, pipelines have broken, and five workers lost their lives, among other incidents. Social impacts are also exacerbated.

Vaca Muerta is a complex, multidimensional and global issue. It seems unstoppable, but the venture has shown great structural intrinsic fragility and its real potential has been overhyped. On top of that, its scope and speed have also been reduced by networks of national and international resistance. Across the country, numerous bans on fracking and infrastructure projects have been obtained.

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Tecpetrol to Invest $2.3 Bln in Vaca Muerta

(Reuters, Eliana Raszewski, 23.Mar.2017) — Argentina’s Tecpetrol, part of the Techint Group, said on Thursday it would invest $2.3 billion in the Vaca Muerta shale fields through 2019, the largest announcement in the formation in years.

Tecpetrol said in a statement the investment was made possibly due to measures from President Mauricio Macri’s government, including a deal with labor unions earlier this year and a definition of price supports this month.

Tecpetrol will aim to produce an average 14 million cubic meters (494 cubic feet) of shale gas per day by 2019 said Guillermo Pereyra, a union leader and senator who participated in a Thursday meeting where executives communicated the plan to Macri.

That is half the amount of gas Argentina currently imports, Pereyra said, and will help Macri’s government reach its goal of energy self efficiency. An energy deficit is a major contributor to Argentina’s fiscal deficit.

About the size of Belgium, the Vaca Muerta formation is one of the largest shale reserves in the world but it has been mostly unexplored due to high production costs and lack of labor flexibility.

The investment would eventually result in 1,000 new jobs, Pereyra and Tecpetrol said.

“We are going to arrive in September with five or six drilling teams, each one with about 100 people, this is very important,” Pereyra said in a telephone interview.

Macri’s government in January announced an agreement with oil companies and unions to lower labor costs and stimulate investments, which until now have been slow to arrive.

YPF said it reached a preliminary deal with Royal Dutch Shell Plc last month to develop oil and gas assets in Vaca Muerta involving a $300 million investment from Shell.

Earlier this month the government said it would gradually lower the price it guarantees for gas drilled from new wells, currently $7.50 per million British thermal units of gas, to encourage investment sooner rather than later.

Vaca Muerta contains 308 trillion cubic feet of shale gas and 16.2 billion barrels of shale oil, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

Tecpetrol has been carrying out a pilot project in the Fortin de Piedra area and will now move on to the development phase, Pereyra said.

The company said it planned to drill 150 wells in the next three years, with $1.6 billion of the investment going toward the wells and $700 million to be used for treatment and gas transport installations, Tecpetrol said.


Big Oil Flocks To Argentina As Permian Land Prices Skyrocket

(Oilprice.com, Charles Kennedy, 15.Sep.2016) — The Permian Basin has become so hot that some oil companies are starting to stay away, instead looking at frontiers that are less picked over.

BP is one such company. The British oil giant’s CEO Bob Dudley said that land in the Permian has become too expensive, and instead he is looking to expand operations in Argentina, where the vast Vaca Muerta shale basin offers appetizing opportunity.

In an interview with Bloomberg TV from Buenos Aires, Dudley said BP is planning on acquiring more assets in the Vaca Muerta. And it isn’t just the “enormous potential” from the oil and gas reserves in the shale basin, but also the friendly policy put forth by the new Argentine government led by President Mauricio Macri. “I’m really encouraged by what I see,” Dudley said. “There’s a lot of future here.” BP has a joint venture with Bridas Corp. – BP owns 60 percent of Pan American Energy LLC and Bridas controls the other 40 percent. BP will expand its presence in Argentina through this JV.

Argentina is quickly becoming one of the few countries that has achieved shale development outside of North America. One of the biggest incentives the government has offered is regulated oil prices, set at levels higher than the international price. Several of BP’s peers are already drilling in the Vaca Muerta, including Chevron, ExxonMobil, and Royal Dutch Shell.

The state-owned YPF said that it would need investments totaling about $200 billion to fully exploit the Vaca Muerta.

Exxon said earlier this year that it might spend more than $10 billion in Argentina, building on several pilot projects. The investments would span decades. “I am very encouraged by the changes that have occurred here in Argentina, with the change in government,” Exxon’s CEO Rex Tillerson said in June. More and more companies are starting to build up their presence in Argentina.

Meanwhile, back in Texas, land prices are shooting through the roof. SM Energy recently spent more than $39,000 per acre for land in the Permian, which some are calling the “hottest zip codes in the industry.” That is pricing out some companies and forcing many to look elsewhere. With West Texas saturated with drillers, Argentina stands to benefit.


Energy Analytics Institute (EAI): #LatAmNRG

Next Hot Spot for Shale Drilling? Argentina

(CNN Money, 28.Jul.2016) – Argentina has exceptional hydrocarbon reserves, but politics has greatly affected its development.

The economy in Argentina is best described as a “pendulum”, going from loose economic policies in the ’80s to Washington-consensus liberalisation in the ’90s and back again under the Kirchner regime.

Since the current president Macri took office in December 2015, he has been reversing the policies of his predecessor and has focused on boosting the economy with free-market measures through eliminating currency controls and lowering utility subsidies.

In March, the government also announced a $7.50 per barrel subsidy on exported oil while Brent remained below $47.50 per barrel to attract foreign investment.

Argentina’s recoverable shale oil reserves are estimated at 27 billion barrels and hold the third largest shale gas and fourth-largest shale oil reserves in the world. Appearing in the spotlight is the Vaca Muerta formation with technically recoverable shale gas of 308 trillion cubic feet and 16 billion barrels of oil.

The Vaca Muerta Shale spans across four provinces – Neuquén, La Pampa, Mendoza and Rio Negro and is almost double the size of the Eagle Ford shale.

Current production from the Vaca Muerta formation is about 50,000 bbl/day, an amount that is expected to double by 2018. IHS Energy research indicates that the Vaca Muerta is characterized by favourable traits such as thick, high-quality, organic-rich shale, similar to the Permian Basin.

While the American consumer basks in low oil prices, the Argentinean consumer is helping to fund the oil industry. Government regulated oil prices were imposed to protect citizens from market fluctuations, although consumers currently face the reverse effect by paying a premium on Brent and WTI.

For 2016 the price of oil in Argentina is frozen at $67.50, with gas prices of $7.50—almost 4 times that of the United States.

The recent nationalization of YPF has opened doors for foreign investments, making Argentina’s oil industry more attractive. Chevron (CVX) has decreased drilling costs in Vaca Muerta by 20% this year. Chevron’s Argentinian drilling costs dropped from $14 million per well to $11.2 million per well in the last three months of 2015.

One major source of savings stemmed from the discovery of a sand deposit in Chubut enabling YPF to eliminate the use of imported sand. Sand is the main ingredient in hydraulic fracturing treatments, which are essential in the completion process in shale oil and gas wells.

In the current environment of low oil prices, Argentina’s regulated crude prices combined with 27 billion barrels of recoverable oil and 802 trillion cubic feet of gas is one of the most attractive ventures for oil companies.

While the U.S. experienced severe cuts in spending by as much as 40%, YPF increased spending by about 4%.

In 2013, Chevron and YPF signed a $1.6 billion exploration deal to develop tight shale oil and gas resources through drilling 132 wells. Dow Chemical Company (DOW) and Shell Argentina followed shortly thereafter by drilling 16 horizontal natural gas wells and a $500 million investment.

YPF also signed a memorandum of understanding with Malaysian oil company PETRONAS in a $550 million pilot project in 2014. Russia’s Gazprom, the world’s largest natural gas producer also engaged in a confidential deal for the development of the Vaca Muerta field.

Exxon Mobil (XOM) has announced the initiation a $250 million pilot project, which if successful would lead to the further development and an excess of $10 billion in additional investment.

Although Argentina is becoming an increasingly attractive investment for oil companies, Vaca Muerta remains vastly untapped. Analysts estimate that YPF is expected to need up to $200 billion to fully exploit the formation.

The rich geological characteristics of Vaca Muerta is only a piece of the puzzle, the recent change in government and the economic policy reforms have set the stage for a more favourable business environment in Argentina.


ExxonMobil to Invest $10 Bln in Vaca Muerta

(Energy Analytics Institute, Jared Yamin, 3.Jun.2016) – U.S.-based ExxonMobil plans to invest $10 billion over the next 20 years in the Vaca Muerta area in Argentina.

The announcement was made by ExxonMobil President Rex Tillerson during a visit the Vaca Muerta area in Neuquén with Argentine President Mauricio Macri, reported the daily newspaper iEco. Exxon has already spent $200 million on exploration drilling activities in the area.

“Depending on the success of the program, we will determine if it is possible to advance with the complete development of the project,” said Tillerson.

ExxonMobil Exploration Argentina — together with XTO Energy in association with Gas y Petróleo from the Neuquén region — plans to start a pilot project in the Bajo del Choique-La Invernada area. The project could commence in coming months with an estimated investment of nearly $250 million.

“I am very optimistic with the changes that have taken place here in Argentina with the new government. Clearly the investment climate is improving as well as the functioning of foreign trade,” said Tillerson who added that Argentina was an important area for his company.


YPF Announces Plans for 20 Areas in Río Negro, Chubut

(Energy Analytics Institute, Jared Yamin, 7.May.2016) – YPF plans to divest of as many as 20 areas in Argentina where the company has a partial interest or where the areas do not offer important earnings.

YPF has put up on the market 6 areas in Río Negro, including some with good returns, reported the daily newspaper iEco.

In Chubut, the company has already identified 20 areas it plans to divest, according to the daily. The company plans to follow a similar strategy in Neuquén and Santa Cruz, although details about these areas have yet to be revealed publicly.

In Neuquén in the Vaca Muerta there are plans in discussion regarding 20 rigs. According to industry data, activities in the area are estimated to fall by 30 percent and by as much as 50 percent in the reservoir exploited by YPF and Chevron.


Non-Conventional Extraction Process Explained [Video]

(Energy Analytics Institute, Ian Silverman, 16.Jan.2014) – Argentina’s Vaca Muerta formation in the Neuquén Basin is best known for its shale oil and gas.

The process related to the extraction of non-conventional hydrocarbons, or in this case, shale deposits, is explained in this short video in Spanish from YPF.