1 Chronology of O&G Developments

1.1 From the 1930s to the 1980s

The discovery of oil in Argentina was in 1907. However, over the years, the intensity and frequency of its development were very changing.

Until the mid-1930s, private participation in the oil industry was prominent, representing around half of the production. The other half was in the hands of the state-owned Yacimiento Petroliferos Fiscales (YPF), founded in 1922. But by the second half of the 1930s, nationalist forces extended to the hydrocarbon sector, giving a more prominent role to YPF and placing obstacles to the participation of private investors.

Already in 1940, Argentine legislation gave YPF the central role in the exploration, production, and commercialisation of oil and derivatives, which made it difficult for private operators to compete with the increasingly powerful state company. Some private oil and gas companies sold their assets to the central government; others lost exploration and production rights in the producing provinces to YPF. Even in some cases, assets were expropriated.

In the late 1940s, YPF had monopoly control of oil production. In the 1950s, financial difficulties and labour union demands led the government to relax its nationalisation policies and reopen the sector to private investment.

Figure 1. A classic YPF pumping station in 1935. Source: “Estación de Servicio YPF I Bariloche” by Archivo Visual Patagonico is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

In that period, Argentina covered around 50% of its energy needs through imports of crude oil and coal products, which strained its trade balance. Decisions favouring private investment helped reduce Argentina’s dependence on imports, and the country became self-sufficient in oil production in the early 1960s. Soon after, however, a change in democratic government again introduced state controls to the oil industry and cancelled private contracts. Oil production stagnated, and imports increased again, leading a new military government in 1966 to allow private participation in the oil industry through concessions and contracts with the national State.

The drop in oil production and the decline in local production continued during the 1970s and 1980s. These periods were difficult for Argentina in political and economic terms, with intermittent military governments and frequent economic crises.

1.2 The 1990s

A period of extensive market-oriented reforms that included privatisation and restructuration. In the 1990s, a new government with strong populist roots pushed the pendulum to an extreme never before experienced in Argentina, adopting strong market-oriented reforms that included privatising some of the country’s flagship state-owned companies, especially YPF.

The provisions included the unrestricted commercialisation of oil and derivative products by decree, eliminating all restrictions on foreign trade and allowing companies to freely manage the returns on their investments in oil or gas. The deregulation and privatisation of the entire hydrocarbon value chain was part of a broader economic and institutional reform process and was carried out in a context of a fragile economy.

As can be inferred from all this changing situation, energy policies, particularly those related to oil and gas, were affected in the same way. As part of the deregulation of strategic sectors such as energy, telecommunications, transportation, banks, and even construction, the oil & gas industry, YPF was initially restructured between 1991 and 1993 and was finally privatised.

During the initial restructuring phase, YPF sold some upstream areas that were put out to tender. For its most productive blocks, the company carried out joint ventures with private operators. YPF’s downstream assets, including refineries, port terminals, aircraft and transportation equipment, were also privatised. Initially, up to 80% of YPF was privatised, and the state-owned 20% of the company’s shares, which was later sold to the Spanish oil company Repsol, but maintained the veto power over critical decisions of the company.

In the distribution and commercialisation gas sector, another large state-owned company, Gas del Estado, was also privatised and divided into two transportation companies and eight gas distributors. At the end of the previous period, and due to so much privatisation, the production and reserves of oil and gas experienced a remarkable recovery.

Regional export infrastructure networks were improved to allow greater hydrocarbon trade, and Argentina became a major natural gas exporter, mainly to neighbouring Chile, through seven new gas pipelines. Argentina also exported smaller volumes of natural gas to Brazil, Uruguay and Bolivia. Production rates and the discovery of new reserves peaked at the end of this period.

1.3 2002-2015

The Duhalde-Kirchner-Fernandez years: a new role for Yacimientos Petrolíferos Fiscales (YPF) In the 2000s, the market-friendly reforms were introduced in the previous decade passed into history, and a new era of solid government controls began due to a change of government.

In 2001, Argentina went through one of the most decisive economic crises in its history. For the energy sector, the crisis led to the overthrow of the liberal policies of the 1990s and the adoption of emergency measures: exchange controls and new temporary taxes on exports were introduced; utility rates were frozen, and dollar contracts with utility companies became devalued pesos.

The three successive governments deepened restrictive policies that had been temporarily adopted in response to the economic collapse. But they did so in a very different economic scenario and in search of concrete political objectives. Argentina experienced nine years of tremendous economic growth, sustained mainly by favourable terms of trade and high international demand for its exports, particularly in the agricultural sector.

Consumption subsidies, initially introduced to help those who fell into poverty during the 2001 economic crisis, were vastly expanded and became a hallmark of these populist governments.

The energy sector was the largest recipient of subsidies, with 56% of the total, followed by 30% for public transport. In particular, electricity generation was heavily subsidised.

Despite the economic recovery, domestic natural gas prices remained under control for 12 years, negatively impacting the sector’s production, transmission, and distribution companies. In response to these internal price controls, natural gas producers’ diverted supplies to the export market. However, in 2011, the government tightened export taxes; it imposed new quantitative limits on exports to keep the domestic market supplied, forcing companies to keep the foreign exchange generated by exports in Argentina. Faced with an unprofitable domestic market and restrictions of all kinds, the companies cut investments in exploration and production, resulting in decreased production.

This created a widening gap between the drop in production and the increase in demand, which resulted in the need to import natural gas to keep the domestic market supplied. For 2013, Argentina imported 396 billion cubic feet (Bcf) of natural gas, approximately a 1,300% increase over 2004 volumes.

As shown below, reduced investment and ageing basins led to a drastic drop in oil and natural gas reserves. Natural gas, in particular, presented a spectacular decline after the peak years of 2000 – 2001, when Argentina was a net exporter to other Latin American countries. Other explanations for the fall in natural gas reserves other than a drop in investment include interventionist policies that affected long-term supplies; contractual interruptions in the natural gas market; and the effects of forced price management outside the market.

Figure 2. Argentina’s natural gas and oil reserves from the late 1990s to 2014. Source: https://5g.wilsoncenter.org/sites/default/files/media/documents/publication/argentinasoilgas.vasquez.pdf

1.4 2015 to present days: shale to the rescue

The Vaca Muerta formation is vast and very promising. It has an approximate surface area somewhat more extensive than that of Belgium and slightly smaller than that of Switzerland or the Netherlands, and it is estimated that it has geological characteristics similar to some of the most prolific shale formations in the world (Eagle Ford, one of the seven main shale fields in the U.S.). The Neuquén basin has its central station in Vaca Muerta, spans four provinces (Neuquén, Mendoza, Río Negro and La Pampa) and is almost twice the size of Eagle Ford, which extends from the border with Mexico to southern Texas, in an area approximately 640 km long and 80 km wide. Vaca Muerta produces about 50,000 b/d (2015).

In the world, the development of unconventional hydrocarbons has raised concerns about possible environmental impacts. In Argentina, the national and provincial legal framework is limited to address ecological problems related to unconventional operations, despite widespread environmental concerns about hydraulic fracturing or fracking (a process used to obtain unconventional oil and gas).

The federal government usually is responsible for setting environmental standards, and the provinces can issue specific regulations to supplement national legislation. In the United States, communities living near unconventional hydrocarbon areas and environmental groups increasingly use local jurisdictional courts to limit or prohibit fracking. In Argentina, several municipalities passed resolutions banning fracking in their jurisdictions. However, many of these municipal resolutions were overturned by higher courts that ruled that the constitutional regulatory authority on hydrocarbons rests with the provincial government. In addition to environmental concerns, this development generates confrontations between labour unions and indigenous populations.

Shale oil and gas could not only solve Argentina’s current energy crisis; They could also offer a solid platform for sustained economic growth for many generations to come. Rough initial estimates project creating between 20,000 and 22,000 jobs per year during the first twenty years of shale production.

The 1994 Constitution grants the domain of natural resources within their territories to the provincial governments but does not go so far as to expand or detail this concept. In the oil and gas sector, interference from the executive branch and extra-institutional bargaining, similar to utility rates, can be typical. Argentina’s frequent economic and political upheavals were such that Congress granted successive presidents emergency powers that served to minimise the checks and balances typically exercised by Congress and the judiciary while circumventing formal negotiation mechanisms.

Emergency powers were often used to introduce transformative reforms to correct economic imbalances inherited from the previous government. In itself, the use of extraordinary powers is not against the law since it is provided for in the Constitution. However, it is abused in its exercise, contributing to a generalised perception of an unrestricted executive who participates in informal agreements and judicial manipulation. These practices serve to undermine the rule of law.

Argentine federalism is based on political alliances between the executive and provincial governors, an arrangement that reinforces the country’s highly presidential system. The producing provinces have the legal authority to grant exploration and production licenses and collect royalties. However, they still depend on federal transfers to meet most of their local spending needs. Presidents regularly offer increased financial support to governors in exchange for the votes of their affiliated deputies in the legislature. This so-called “coordinated federalism” contributes to the weakening of democratic institutions.

Clear rules and long-term legal certainty are essential to private investment to explore and exploit unconventional oil and gas reserves. Argentina must address the historical causes of political and economic instability if its hydrocarbon industry is to be efficient, modern, and sustainable. The trend in the international price of oil will also play a crucial role.

2 Basins

Table 1. Annual oil (Mm3: thousand cubic meters) and gas (MMm3: million cubic meters) production by basin in Argentina.

This section provides the main characteristics of each O&G basin.

2.1 Neuquen

The Neuquina Basin develops a power greater than 6,000 m and covers around 115,000 km2. It is characterised by having four source rocks, the Puesto Kauffman, Los Molles, Vaca Muerta and Agrio formations.

The Puesto Kauffman Formation can be targeted as unconventional shale-type reservoirs. This unit reaches about 1,000 m in thickness, has a TOC (total organic carbon) that varies between 2 and 11%, H.I. (hydrogen index) up to 900 mgHC/gTOC (H.C.: Hydrocarbon), kerogens type I to I / III, which suggests an important terrestrial contribution added to lake algal production.

The Los Molles Formation varies between 100 and 800 m thick and reflects the evolutionary history of the basin. This unit is the second in importance in the basin; it has a TOC that varies between 1 and 5%, HI of 300-500 mgHC/gTOC, kerogens type II-III. This formation is a target as an unconventional reservoir that meets the conditions of the shale and tight types where there are submarine channels controlled by paleo-topography.

The Vaca Muerta Formation has a variable thickness between 25 and more than 450 meters; it has a TOC that varies between 3 and 8%, HI 400-800 mgHC/TOC, kerogens type I-II to II-S (in marginal areas). This formation covers more than 25,000 km2 of surface; it is Argentina’s most significant source rock. Its conditions make it an unconventional objective of the shale type of excellence worldwide.

The Vaca Muerta exploitation is currently under an intensive drilling and development process, representing more than 95% of the activities related to unconventional shale-type reservoirs.

Figure 3. Neuquen Basin exploitation areas for oil and gas. Source: http://w2.neuquen.gov.ar/energia-y-recursos-naturales

2.2 Austral

This sequence is known as the Tobífera Series. It contains acidic volcanic material, volcaniclastic and fluvial-lacustrine sequences up to 1,000 m thick over about 146,000 km2. The pelitic sections represent one of the generating rocks of the basin, the Tobífera Series, which in its generating facies reaches 25 m thick. The TOC is variable between 1 and 3%, HI 300-500 mgHC/gTOC, kerogens type II to III. It would correspond to unconventional reservoirs of the tight kind.

The primary source rock, a target as an unconventional shale-type reservoir, is the Palermo Aike Formation. The unit has a TOC that varies between 0.5 and 2%, HI 300-750 mgHC/gTOC, kerogen type II to III.

2.3 Cuyana

The Cuyana Basin reaches a power close to 3,700 meters and is developed at approximately 43,000 km2. It has three source rocks: Cerro de las Cabras, Potrerillos and Cacheuta formations, the latter being the most important.

The Cerro de las Cabras Formation reaches 10% TOC, has type II-III and III-IV kerogen, but maturation levels are not optimal, and its efficiency as a source rock is not clear to date. The Potrerillos Formation, which towards its upper levels comprises lake deposits, has type II-III kerogens and H.I. values of 100-400 mgHC/gTOC, with the potential to generate hydrocarbons; however, at present, these rocks are, in principle, as tight-type targets.

The Cacheuta Formation is the source rock par excellence of the basin. It reaches variable thicknesses between 50 and 400 meters, TOC varies between 3 and 10% and 1, HI of 600-900 mgHC/gTOC, kerogen type I. The Cacheuta Formation is the target unit as an unconventional reservoir of the shale type in the basin.

2.4 Golfo San Jorge

The Golfo San Jorge Basin, of about 170,000 km2, has about 8,000 m of sediment thickness. The thickness reaches 1,800 m, with a TOC that varies between 0.5 and 3%, HI 300-600 mgHC/gTOC, kerogens type II-III. Covered by the Pozo Anticlinal, Aguada Bandera and Pozo Cerro Guadal formations together, they are called the Neocomian sequence, which constitutes the oldest source rocks in the basin and are targets of the unconventional shale type.

The pelites of the Pozo D-129 Formation correspond to the primary source rock of the basin and target potential as an unconventional reservoir of shale types, and the sandstones corresponding to the marginal clastic facies of the lake, coasts and deltas represent the conventional reservoirs and the unconventional ones of the tight kind. The formation is about 2,000 m thick; it has a TOC that varies between 0.5 and 3%, HI 300-650 mgHC/gCOT, kerogens type I / II to II / III.

2.5 Noroeste

The Cretaceous Basin covers 53,000 km2 and comprises three major depocenters of asymmetric configuration: Metán-Alemanía, Lomas de Olmedo and Tres Cruces.

The Yacoraite Formation, targeted as a tight unconventional reservoir, is the source rock of the basin, reaching about 50 m thick, with a TOC that varies between 0.5 and 6%, HI 300-750 mgHC/gTOC, kerogens type II to III.

2.6 Noreste

Paraná-Chaco Basin (only the part corresponding to Argentina is considered): Gas resources in-situ (Ponta Grossa formation): 16 TCF (trillion cubic feet), equivalent to 440 billion m3 approx. Of this value, the technically recoverable unproven Resources (obtained from a recovery factor of 20%) would give a total of: 3.2 TCF (86.4 billion m3), equivalent to 0.3 times the current proven gas reserves of the country.

3 Domestic Sector

Argentina is the second-largest producer of natural gas and the fourth-largest producer of crude oil in Central and South America.

Table 2. Annual oil production by type of resource for oil (Mm3: thousand cubic meters) and gas (MMm3: million cubic meters) in Argentina.

3.1 Domestic production

Argentina is the second-largest producer of natural gas and the fourth-largest producer of crude oil in Central and South America. According to the B.P. Statistical Review of World Energy (June 2019), Argentina has oil reserves in the range of 0.4 trillion cubic metres (12.7 trillion cubic feet). In the last year reviewed (2019), Argentina’s oil production was 29.5 Mm3, 3.9% higher than the previous year.

Oil production grew for the second year in a row in 2019, after a declining trend over the last decade. However, oil production is still at deficient levels, 15.7% lower than in 2009 and with production levels similar to 1991. Over the last decade, natural gas production has increased at an average annual rate of 0.2%. While production was decreasing until 2013, it has picked up again and has been rising since 2014. Production increased by 5% from 2018 to 2019.

The development of unconventional oil and gas has raised enormous interest in the last year, leading the direct investment statistics, followed by renewable energy. The production of non-conventional hydrocarbons has increased by 49.9% in oil and 26.3% in natural gas from 2018 to 2019. Presidential Decree 488/2020 provides oil barrels must be sold at USD45 in Argentina while international oil prices (Brent) remain below that value. However, this measure (known as “criollo” barrel) may be suspended if the Brent prices exceed that value for ten consecutive days.

Leading oil producers in the Argentine market are the following. The largest oil and gas companies (upstream) are:

  • YPF SA, which is 51% publicly held.
  • Pan American Energy (PAE). PAE is owned by B.P. and the Bridas Corporation (a joint venture between the China National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC) and Bridas Energy Holdings).
  • Chevron (U.S.).
  • Pampa Energía (after it acquired Petrobras Argentina).
  • Sinopec (China).

Figure 4. Leading oil producers in Argentina. Source: http://www.aogexpo.com.ar/ENG/OverviewEN.pdf

YPF S.A. has 42% of the Vaca Muerta area, on the other hand, Gas y Petróleo del Neuquén S.A. (Neuquén province state company) has 12%, and the remaining 46% is distributed among other companies that include Total Austral, Pampa Energía, ExxonMobil, Pan American Energy, Petronas, Pluspetrol, Shell, Tecpetrol, Oilstone, Wintershall , among others.

In other ventures YPF S.A. signed association agreements with Chevron in Loma Campana, with Dow in El Orejano, with Petrolera Pampa in Rincón del Mangrullo and Mulichino, with Bridas in Bajada de Añelo (all in 2013) and with Petronas in La Amarga Chica (2014). It also signed cooperation and strategic agreements with PDVSA, YPFB, ANCAP, Statoil, and Gazprom.

The largest natural gas producer companies are the state-owned YPF and Total (private company), which account for more than half of the production.

3.2 Fuel imports/exports market

No legislation prohibits explicitly exporting oil production. However, under the Hydrocarbons Law, local demand must be satisfied first.

In the context of the substantial changes in the international financial environment, Presidential Decree 793/2018 established an extraordinary and temporary export duty of 12%, until December 31 2020, on exports of all merchandise included in the Common Nomenclature tariff positions of MERCOSUR.

Under Law No. 27,541 (Economic Emergency Law) adopted in 2019, the Federal Government can introduce export duties on hydrocarbons (oil and gas) until December 31 2021. These duties cannot:

  • Exceed 8% of the dutiable value or the official “free on board” (FOB price).
  • Reduce the value of the natural gas at the point of entry into the transport system or the payment of royalties to the producing provinces.

Due to the sharp fall in the international oil price, the government established a minimum fee of USD45 per barrel for national consumption. It eliminated export duties as long as global prices remained below USD45 (Presidential Decree 488/2020).

Production of gas has been decreasing in recent years, and consumption has increased. This has resulted in importing natural gas (from Bolivia and Chile) and LNG to meet current demand. To mitigate the effects of the diminishing natural gas available to the domestic market, the Ministry of Economy issued Resolution No. 534/2006, which regulates the import and export of natural gas. Natural gas imports do not require prior approval (Natural Gas Act No. 24,076).

Bolivia’s natural gas imports fell by 16% between 2018 and 2019 but are still 313% higher than in 2009. Over the last ten years, natural gas imports by pipeline have increased by an average of 15.3% per year, rising from 1,232 million cubic metres (MMm3) in 2009 to 5,096 MMm3 in 2019. Likewise, LNG imports fell by 51.6% between 2018 and 2019 but have increased by 4.7% since 2010. Producers exported 1,079 MMm3 of natural gas through pipelines in 2019.

The export of natural gas requires prior approval of the Secretariat of Energy. Resolution No. 104/18 of the former Ministry of Energy regulates natural gas exports. It sets out the applicable limitations and requirements necessary to obtain prior approval of the Secretariat of Energy. Further regulations are contained in Decrees No. 885/92, 1738/92, 2255/92, 1186/93 and 2731/92.

Approval to export natural gas will be granted if this does not affect domestic supply (Hydrocarbons Act No. 17,319; Natural Gas Act No. 24,076). In any event, copies of the import and export agreements must be filed with the Federal Gas Regulatory Authority (Ente Nacional Regulador del Gas) (ENARGAS). The applicant bears the burden of proving the absence of impact on local supply.

The disproportionate increase in consumer subsidies, mainly residential, and the appearance of Trust Funds in 2002 led to the stoppage of works by the companies. At the same time, the price of Natural Gas in the wellhead was also practically frozen; for this reason, private suppliers stopped exploring and exploiting, and this also contributed to increasing imports of Liquefied Natural Gas (with a calorie cost almost six times higher than the value recognised in wellhead). Gas from Bolivia costs approximately three times more, but transportation infrastructure problems to bring it and a lack of supply in Bolivia restricted Natural Gas from this source.

3.3 Government policy objectives

The historical trend of Argentina’s energy matrix shows policies that evidence a slight increase in renewable energy; it also displays a small decrease in oil and a relative proportional increase in gas resources. All this means that there has been no growth in primary energy in recent years.

Under the applicable legal framework, the Argentine Government’s primary objective is to ensure hydrocarbon self-sufficiency. Other goals include exploring, producing, industrialising, transporting and commercialising hydrocarbons to:

  • Guarantee economic development with social equity.
  • Create jobs.
  • Make various economic sectors more competitive.
  • Promote sustainable growth in the provinces and regions.

In addition, Argentine hydrocarbon policy aims to:

  • Promote hydrocarbons and their derivatives to develop and increase the competitiveness of the diverse economic sectors and the provinces and regions.
  • Convert hydrocarbon resources into proven reserves and ensure their exploitation and the restitution of reserves.
  • Strategically deploy public, private, national and foreign capital to explore and produce conventional and unconventional hydrocarbons.
  • Maximise the available investments and resources to achieve hydrocarbon self-sufficiency in the short, medium and long term.
  • Encourage technological and management innovation to improve hydrocarbon exploration and production activities.
  • Industrialise and commercialise hydrocarbons with high added value.
  • Protect the interests of consumers in terms of price, quality, and availability of the derivatives of hydrocarbons.
  • Obtain a positive balance of exportable hydrocarbons to improve the balance of payments and guarantee the long-term rational and sustainable production of oil and petroleum products.

4 O&G Regulation In Argentina

4.1 Generalities

The Hydrocarbons Law, Law Nº 17,319, was promulgated on June 23, 1967; it has more than 54 years of application and more than 380 modifications and adjustments through Decrees, Resolutions and Provisions. The current government promised that during 2021, it would send Congress a new hydrocarbons law, although it is not the first time that different governments have issued a new hydrocarbons law. Now, and above all, since Vaca Muerta began to be, reality presses in that sense at accelerated steps. With a new norm, the need is to provide a legal framework that guarantees the primary conditions for investments to be carried out.

Most of the investments that Vaca Muerta has concentrated so far have been for unconventional oil, even though the formation is much richer in gas. This is due to the high costs – and the lack of infrastructure – that its extraction requires. The project foresees export authorisations guaranteed by 20% of the incremental production of each operator. 80% must be offered to the domestic market.

If there is incremental aggregate production –that is, the activity of the entire sector grows -, each beneficiary will have guaranteed export authorisations of 30%, 40% and 50% as established in the mechanism established by the new law. There would be more significant incentives, depending on the proportion of the total activity of the company included in the regime of the law and the level of supply that each one registers in the domestic market.

Figure 5. Oilfield to the north of Neuquen, Argentina. Source: “3_1Nq09” by zeesstof is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0.

Concerning prices, the project would apply to the exportable volume benefited a withholding of 8% on the value that yields an equation between averages of the international price of crude oil (Brent) of the previous five days, a base reference crude price and a price of high benchmark crude. Regarding foreign exchange, the project states that the beneficiaries are obliged to enter 50% of the exportable volume benefited, “enjoying free availability of the remaining percentage.” Similar criteria apply for gas exports.

Many are sceptical of this new law due to the weak legal certainty. “Trust is not achieved with a new law, but by complying with current laws,” some remarked, recalling that the government granted Chevron the possibility of exporting without withholdings and priority access to the exchange market, without the need to liquidate all its currencies in the country. It was the way to guarantee the U$ 1.5 billion investment after an agreement with YPF. This generated legal proceedings against the presidency at that time for the possible crimes of non-compliance with the duties of a public official, abuse of authority and attempted environmental contamination, indicating the violation of national laws 17,319 and 27,.007 on hydrocarbons, among others. That is, government decrees plagued by legal doubts.

4.2 Rights: exploration, concession, obligations

Currently, the conditions for exploration are:

Basic Term: Exploration with a conventional objective:

  • 1st period up to three (3) years.
  • 2nd period up to three (3) years.
  • Extension period: up to five (5) years.
  • For explorations on the continental shelf and in the territorial sea, each of the periods of the Basic Exploration Period with a conventional objective may be increased by one (1) year.

Exploration with an unconventional objective:

  • 1st period up to four (4) years.
  • 2nd period up to four (4) years.
  • Extension period: up to five (5) years.

Currently, the conditions for exploitation are:

  • Concession for conventional hydrocarbon exploitation: twenty-five (25) years.
  • Concession of Non-Conventional Exploitation of Hydrocarbons: thirty-five (35) years. This term will include a Pilot Plan Period of up to five (5) years, defined by the concessionaire and approved by the Enforcement Authority when the concession begins.
  • Exploitation Concession with the continental shelf and in the territorial sea: thirty (30) years.

The award of an exploration permit obliges its holder to carry out the minimum works and investments he has committed. Suppose the investment made in any of these periods is less than the one committed. In that case, the permit holder must pay the State the resulting difference, except in unforeseeable circumstances or force majeure. The waiver of the permit holder to the right of exploitation obliges him to pay the State the amount of the committed and unrealised investments that correspond to the period in which said waiver occurs.

5 Conclusion

It is emphasised that oil and gas policy cannot be separated from the political, social and economic context. The development of oil and gas in Argentina has historically been guided by oscillations according to the decisions of the governments of the day, from state controls to the opening of the sector to private investment. Thus, decisions on oil and gas have suffered the rigours of political swings from one end of the spectrum to the other for years.

The proven reserves and the production of O&G dropped notably, and exploration wells decreased, an indicator of risk investments to replace and increase reserves. Natural Gas imports rose sharply and went from being hydrocarbon exporters to importers and increasing magnitudes over time. There were no extensions and changes in the refinery structures. Therefore the processed crude remained stable, even in absolute values, and fuel oil and diesel oil had to be imported to replace natural gas in electricity generation. Gasoline and gasoil were needed to supply the reduced supply of the refineries to meet the demand of the transport and agricultural sectors.

As we have already mentioned, Argentina has a very high potential for the development of unconventional hydrocarbons. From 2014 to date, we can highlight that the appearance of Non-Conventional Hydrocarbon Resources first generated the agreements of YPF S.A. with various companies. The success in exploiting this resource depends a lot on maintaining, in the long term, clarity in the game’s rules and a full legal certainty for those interested in participating.

Argentina has a relatively well-developed legal and institutional system. It is common for presidents to assume constitutionally granted extraordinary powers to address recurring economic crises in Argentina. However, given the strong tendency to delegate authority to the executive (hyper-presidential system), the rule of law is often compromised. The hydrocarbon sector is a classic example.

6 References

[1] https://uk.practicallaw.thomsonreuters.com/3-525-1317?transitionType=Default&contextData=(sc.Default)&firstPage=true#:~:text=Government%20policy%20objectives&text=Guarantee%20economic%20development%20with%20social,in%20the%20provinces%20and%20regions.

[2] Ley Nº 17.319 – Ley de Hidrocarburos

[3] Ley Nº 27.007 – Hidrocarburos, modificación a Ley 17.319

[4] Fundación Bariloche: Análisis de la Ley 27007, Llamada de Hidrocarburos, y de la Política Hidrocarburifera del Periodo 2003 a 2014

[5] Fundación Bariloche: Shale Oil y Shale Gas en Argentina. Estado de situación y prospectiva

[6] Pwc Argentina: Vaca Muerta: el atractivo de invertir en no convencionales

[7] Fundación Ambiente y Recursos Naturales: Efectos, impactos y riesgos socioambientales del megaproyecto Vaca Muerta

[8] Petrotecnia – octubre, 2014: Características geológicas y recursos asociados con los reservorios no convencionales del tipo shale de las cuencas productivas de la Argentina

[9] Sören Scholvin (2021) Limits of linkage-based development: an assessment of the oil and gas sector in North Patagonia, Argentina, Geografisk Tidsskrift-Danish Journal of Geography, 121:1, 72-78, DOI: 1080/00167223.2020.1847154

[10] IEA: World energy balances 2020

[11] IEA: Key World Energy Statistics 2020

[12] IAE – Mosconi: La producción de hidrocarburos en Argentina – 2020

[13] http://www.aogexpo.com.ar/ENG/OverviewEN.pdf

[14] https://5g.wilsoncenter.org/sites/default/files/media/documents/publication/argentinasoilgas.vasquez.pdf