Argentina - Country Commercial Guide
Energy Oil & Gas

This is a best prospect industry sector for this country. Includes a market overview and trade data.

Last published date: 2021-11-09

Argentina’s energy sector regulatory framework is under review with the goal of providing greater market certainty and attracting more foreign investment to boost oil and gas production for exports.  Given its broader economic challenges, the Argentine government at the federal and provincial levels is playing a larger role in critical industries of the economy, such as energy, mining, and transportation. The Argentine government is pinning hopes on the energy sector to join agriculture as a driver of exports and to generate foreign exchange and investment for economic growth.

In 2020, Argentina produced 480,000 barrels per day (bpd) of oil, of which 134,000 bpd were exported.  While total oil production was down 20,000 bpd compared to 2019, oil exports were up by 45,000 bpd due to reduced domestic demand related to COVID-19 quarantine measures.  Argentina possesses the world’s fourth-largest shale oil and second-largest shale gas reserves. The Vaca Muerta shale formation is located in the provinces of Neuquén, Mendoza, and Rio Negro, and only a fraction has been developed for oil and gas production. Vaca Muerta’s shale quality, production incentives, tax exemptions, and negotiated labor concessions have contributed to lowering operational costs by approximately 30 percent since 2017, making some projects competitive in price to those in the Permian Basin. Between 2017 and 2019, investments increased significantly; however, investment has slowed since 2019 due to regulatory and policy uncertainty, including foreign exchange controls that hinder repatriation of dividends. Major global exploration companies including Chevron, ConocoPhillips, ExxonMobil, Petronas, Shell, and Total are present along with many local firms. Noteworthy is Argentina’s majority state-owned energy company, YPF, which holds the largest upstream sector share. The industry reports a continued need for small and medium-sized service companies with shale expertise to enter the market to further improve efficiency and lower costs. The U.S.-based Petroleum Equipment and Services Association has opened a chapter in Argentina to encourage more companies to enter the market.

The province of Neuquén, home to the largest portion of the Vaca Muerta formation, continues to be a key driver of industry growth, and will potentially enable Argentina to become a regional game changer in the next decade.   Vaca Muerta’s production of unconventional oil and gas increased 30% and 22% year-on-year, respectively.

The Government of Argentina recently launched “Plan GasAr,” a natural gas plan conceived to increase local production and reduce gas imports. The government’s gas plan provides a framework that ensures access to foreign exchange and government support for increased production.

Natural gas represents about 60 percent of Argentina’s primary energy source, and although it features one of the world’s largest shale gas deposits, it needs to rely on liquified natural gas (LNG) imports to meet domestic demand.  

As per the aforementioned, U.S. state-of-the-art technologies and know-how could be instrumental in bringing Argentina’s energy market to the next level.

The Argentine government is set to release a new hydrocarbon bill, which is expected to be passed by the National Congress sometime in 2021.  The bill itself is based on a hydrocarbon investment promotion regime that is posed to provide the industry with a long-term tax/fiscal stability outlook, at provincial and municipal levels. Further, the bill is expected to stimulate incremental oil and gas production for domestic and international markets, promote production continuity of mature wells through secondary and tertiary recovery, which represent approximately 80% of the country’s conventional hydrocarbon production, and also secure access to foreign exchange.

Resources                      

  • Secretariat of Energy: https://www.argentina.gob.ar/energia
  • Integración Energética Argentina (Ex-ENARSA): IEASA
  • Argentine Institute of Petroleum & Gas: IAPG
  • Argentina Oil & Gas Expo: AOG

For additional information, including market analysis, trade events, contacts, and the products and services that the U.S. Commercial Service can provide to help you succeed in the Argentine market, please contact Marcelo Amden, Industry Specialist