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YPFB Considers Leasing Pipelines to Facilitate Vaca Muerta Gas Exports

Bolivia's state-owned oil and gas company, YPFB, is evaluating the possibility of leasing its pipeline infrastructure to Argentina for exporting natural gas from the Vaca Muerta shale play to Brazil. YPFB President Armin Dorgathen highlighted this potential move during a recent announcement, emphasizing the economic benefits for Bolivia. "Renting the pipelines will bring us more resources," Dorgathen stated, noting that Bolivia's infrastructure presents the most viable and cost-effective route for Argentine gas exports.

The Vaca Muerta formation, located in Argentina's Neuquén province, is the world's second-largest shale gas deposit, with estimated recoverable resources of 308 trillion cubic feet of natural gas and 16 billion barrels of oil. With Brazil's growing natural gas demand and intermittent reliance on LNG imports due to fluctuating hydropower conditions, the proposed pipeline route through Bolivia offers a strategic solution.

Despite the attractiveness of this route, several logistical and regulatory hurdles remain. The proposed plan involves reversing the flow of existing Bolivian pipelines, which historically transported gas southbound to Argentina. This reversal would enable northbound gas flow from Argentina to Brazil. However, YPFB recently rejected a tolling fee proposal from Argentina and Brazil for utilizing its pipelines, complicating negotiations.

Additionally, Argentina must complete infrastructure projects to transport Vaca Muerta gas to the Bolivian border before any pipeline exports can commence. This involves addressing tariffs and ensuring regulatory alignment between the three nations involved in the project.

Dorgathen also announced YPFB's interest in investing directly in the Vaca Muerta field to produce natural gas for the Brazilian market. He emphasized the strategic importance of this initiative, stating that it would strengthen Bolivia's position in the regional energy market and provide significant economic benefits.

As discussions continue, the potential collaboration between Argentina, Bolivia, and Brazil could reshape South America's natural gas landscape, providing a stable and cost-effective energy supply route that benefits all parties involved. Industry stakeholders will be closely monitoring the progress of these negotiations and the impact on regional energy dynamics.

By Julianne Geiger for Oilprice.com

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