Oil reserves2.5 billion barrels
Oil production600,000 bopd
Gas reserves400 bcm
Gas production38.3 bcm
Argentina: Vast Unconventional Potential
At 2.4 billion barrels, Argentina has the fourth-largest oil reserves in South America, and occupies the same rank for oil production in the continent, with a total crude output of 593,000 bopd in 2017. Argentina’s natural gas reserves total 350 bcm (13.4 tcf), and the country is the largest gas producer in South America, with output standing at 37.1 bcm (1.31 tcf) in 2017. Argentina’s unconventional oil and gas plays have prolific potential. The country has the world’s fourth-largest unproven, but technically recoverable reserves of shale oil at 27 billion barrels, as well as the second-largest reserves of shale gas globally at 22.7 tcm (802 tcf), according to US Energy Information Administration assessments. Despite its hydrocarbons resource wealth, production from conventional oil and gasfields has fallen, recently turning Argentina into a net energy importer.
Despite new legislation and tantalising plays, state-owned YPF still dominates the industry. The company is Argentina’s largest producer of oil and gas and owns more than half of Argentina’s refineries. Attempts are now being made to rebrand YPF as an entity willing to partner with new, technology-intensive E&P players. The NOC is already engaged in upstream projects with companies such as Chevron, Dow Argentina, Enap Sipetrol, Statoil and more. One obstacle to the entrance of small and medium-sized players in the numbers that allowed for the USA’s shale boom is the cost of operating in Argentina. Not only do operators face high production costs in trying to recover hydrocarbons from complex plays, but issues such as conflicts with labour unions also contribute to expenses.
With the goal of advancing the development of Vaca Muerta, oil and gas companies in Argentina, along with the government and labour unions, entered an agreement in early January 2017 that would see many of the usual roadblocks to the play’s development removed. The agreement, which applied to the Neuquén province was replicated in several of the country’s other hydrocarbons-producing provinces throughout 2017. Adding to the successes of Argentina’s Gas Plan, a programme incentivising investment in gas production, the government in March 2017 established an extended subsidy to incentivise investors in Vaca Muerta projects. Under the new deal, gas producers working in the Neuquén Basin will be paid USD 7.50 per million Btu, decreasing by USD 0.50 each year until prices reach USD 6 in 2021. The deal was expected to draw in around USD 5 billion in investment in Vaca Muerta in 2017, to be surpassed in 2018, with projected investments totalling about USD 15 billion. Due to the success of the initiative, the Ministry of Energy and Mining established a similar programme for the Austral Basin in November 2017.
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