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Argentina Opens Up “Last Frontier” For Oil with Offshore Block Tender

Argentina has announced the launch of an offshore oil and gas block tender in what it says is the last frontier for oil and gas exploration in the southern hemisphere. S&P Global Platts quoted the country’s Energy Secretary Javier Iguacel as saying there was a lot of interest in the blocks, mainly because Argentina’s substantial offshore territory is untapped.

According to Iguacel, the geology of Argentina’s continental slope, where the shelf falls into deep water, is similar to the geology of Suriname and Guyana, where oil and gas finds have been made recently. Guyana has become a particularly attractive destination after Exxon announced a whole string of promising discoveries off the country’s shore. Argentina seems to be hoping to repeat this success.

The Energy Secretariat is offering 38 blocks, in depths ranging from 100 to 4,000 meters, in three basins, taking in bids in February. To boost the number of bidders, the ministry will go on road shows in Buenos Aires, Houston, and either London or Paris, Iguacel also told S&P Global Platts.

Argentina’s government has been eager to put the country’s oil and gas resources to good use, offering explorers substantial incentives to develop them. Yet the offshore area has not been a priority so far. Instead, all eyes have been on the giant Vaca Muerta shale formation, possibly the second-biggest in the world, after Eagle Ford. The formation is estimated to hold some 16.2 billion barrels of crude oil and 308 trillion cu ft of natural gas.

So far, president Mauricio Macri has announced US$5 billion investments for the development of the giant play, with private companies having pledged some US$8 billion. If the offshore tender is successful, it could also fetch billions in investments and could be followed by more tenders for Argentina’s sizeable offshore domain.

By Irina Slav for Oilprice.com

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