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Rising Vaca Muerta Shale Output Makes Argentina LNG Exporter

Growing natural gas production from the Vaca Muerta shale play has recently helped Argentina to export its first liquefied natural gas (LNG) cargo and to resume pipeline natural gas exports to its neighbors Brazil and Chile, the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) said in a report on Friday.  

Argentina was a net exporter of natural gas between 1990 and 2007, but with declines in natural gas production from mature fields, the country became a net importer of natural gas in 2008.

The shale gas production from the Vaca Muerta formation has been steadily rising in recent years and has been the main contributor to the to the country’s natural gas production.

Thanks to Vaca Muerta’s output, which accounts for some 23 percent of Argentina’s total gross natural gas production, Argentina shipped in June its first LNG cargo from the offshore Tango floating liquefaction unit (FLNG).

According to the EIA, Tango FLNG has a production capacity of 500,000 metric tons (0.07 Bcf/d) of LNG and is expected to produce up to eight LNG-export cargoes annually. However, Argentina’s LNG export growth will need investments in pipelines and onshore liquefaction facilities or the use of more FLNG units, the EIA noted. 

After becoming a net natural gas importer in 2008, Argentina imported both pipeline and LNG throughout the year. But as natural gas production has been growing, in the past two years Argentina imported LNG only in the cooler months, March through October.

“Argentina will likely continue importing LNG during cooler months until additional pipeline infrastructure is built to deliver growing shale production to major demand centers,” the EIA said.

Argentina could become a major LNG supplier to Asian markets because Argentina’s peak LNG potential in the southern hemisphere’s summer coincides with strong demand in Asia in the northern hemisphere’s winter, Wood Mackenzie said last month.

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Vaca Muerta has been one of the few bright spots in shale gas production outside the United States, but it hasn’t come even close to replicating the U.S. shale revolution. Now developers are turning their attention to exporting natural gas and to tapping more oil in the Vaca Muerta formation.  

By Tsvetana Paraskova for Oilprice.com

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  • Bill Simpson on July 14 2019 said:
    Looks like my prediction a couple of years ago of a glut of LNG on the world market might just come true.

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