Argentina Plans Vaca Muerta Production Boost, Pipeline Buildout

Argentina's energy minister today reiterated his country's commitment to build infrastructure and boost output of natural gas, citing plans for a new 22 MMcm/d pipeline from the Vaca Muerta shale producing region to Buenos Aires.

Minister Gustavo Lopetegui said at a Houston press conference that Argentina's efforts to boost its natural gas output and supplies are progressing through new midstream projects and auctions, moves that are expected to balance the country's supply and demand, the nation's energy secretary said at a press conference in Houston.

A pipeline construction contract to transport up to 22 million cubic meters of gas production per day from Argentina's largest producing region, Vaca Muerta, to Buenos Aires, expects to be launched by the end of April, to be awarded in August-September, Lopetegui said.  The pipeline would be more than 400 miles long, according to early projections.

The Vaca Muerta shale play will require future investment of between $5 billion and $10 billion per year, from $4.3 billion, now to accelerate growth, Lopetegui said.

The projected investment is even greater than earlier forecast by Daniel Gonzalez, CEO of Argentina's state oil company, YPF.  In October of last year, Gonzalez said YPF will invest between $4 billion and $5 billion per year through 2022 to boost oil and gas production and expand infrastructure expansion.

Argentina's crude exports, and especially those of shale oil, will climb as overall production heads toward 100,000 barrels per day in the second half of this year, he also said.

The country also plans monthly auctions for offering domestic gas and will organize a separate gas auction beginning in May for offering winter gas at prices indexed to imported liquefied natural gas (LNG).

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