President Alberto Fernández last week launched the construction of a main gas pipeline from the Vaca Muerta unconventional gas field in southwestern Argentina, in order to expand the transport capacity of fuel for self-sufficiency and export.
In an act in Loma Campana last Thursday, the Vaca Muerta area exploited by the state oil company YPF in association with the American Chevron, Alberto Fernández celebrated 'the start of work to create the Néstor Kirchner gas pipeline', the transport work of natural gas in the last 40 years, at a time when hydrocarbons reach record prices on the world market due to the war in Ukraine.
The tender for the work, whose first stage will cost about 1,500 million dollars and its completion is expected in 2024, will be launched in May to be awarded in July and start in August, according to the planned deadlines. The pipes have already been tendered.
The first section will extend over 558 kilometers, between Treatyén (in the Province of Neuquén) and Salliqueló (province of Buenos Aires) and will increase the supply of gas by 22 million cubic meters per day, according to the Government.
The second stage will take the natural gas to San Jerónimo (400 km north of Buenos Aires) and will add another 17 million cubic meters per day, which will allow 'supplying urban centers and industries in the center and north of the country and will give the opportunity to export to Brazil and Chile”, stated an official statement.
'The first objective of the gas pipeline is to replace imports, to replace all LNG (liquefied natural gas), and the second is to generate exportable balances,' said the Secretary of Energy, Darío Martínez, who pointed out that, last summer, Argentina returned to export gas to Chile after 15 years after having reversed the drop in production.
Argentina has a growing production of natural gas thanks to the development of its Vaca Muerta shale hydrocarbon formation, but it is still insufficient to be self-sufficient and must import gas from Bolivia (in 2021 12 million cubic meters per day) and LNG.
In 2021, YPF increased its production of unconventional gas by 100%, going from 9 to 18 million cubic meters, said Pablo González, president of the Argentine company founded 100 years ago, privatized in the 1990s and renationalized in 2012.
“Today there is a geopolitical situation that makes it possible for Argentina to accelerate the development of the energy sector. We are facing an opportunity that requires increasing infrastructure capacity, such as this gas pipeline, and increasing scale investment,” Economy Minister Martín Guzmán said in a recorded message from Washington where he is participating in a G20 meeting.
Vaca Muerta extends over 30,000 square km in Argentine Patagonia and is considered the second most important reserve in the world for shale gas and the fourth for shale oil.
Its exploitation, with the hydraulic fracturing method, is more expensive than that of conventional hydrocarbons. The high investment requirements have delayed the construction of the infrastructure that allows taking advantage of its full potential.