Industry revs up interest in offshore Argentina

Equinor acquired seven blocks in Argentina’s first offshore license round.
Equinor acquired seven blocks in Argentina’s first offshore license round.
(Map courtesy Equinor)

In its first offshore licensing round in more than 20 years, Argentina attracted all the majors except for Chevron. The round, held in Buenos Aires on April 16, received bids from 13 companies, and the winning bids totaled $718.28 million. Of the 38 blocks offered, 18 were licensed.

Horacio Cuenca, research director at Wood Mackenzie, said: “The Argentinian government designed very competitive terms for this round, acknowledging the frontier nature of the acreage, and demonstrated its focused intent on attracting explorers that will carry out the initial de-risking, rather than generating revenue.”

For example, he pointed out that low upfront payments were required, most of the large blocks were won with seismic commitments, and the exploration periods are long. “A company can keep the whole block for eight years before it has to relinquish half of it,” Cuenca said. “There are no drilling commitments for the first four years.”

Equinor, which entered Argentina in 2017, added seven blocks to its portfolio, five as operator.

In the Argentina basin, the company acquired interest in three blocks. It acquired 50% interest in the 8,965-sq km (3,461-sq mi) block CAN 102. YPF will operate and hold the remaining 50%. Equinor gained 100% interest in the 2,882-sq km (1,113-sq mI) block CAN 108. It won operatorship of the 7,079-sq km (2,733-sq mi) block CAN 114, in a 50-50 partnership with YPF.

In the Malvinas basin, Equinor gained interest in two blocks. It secured operatorship of the 4,291-sq km (1,657-sq mi) block MLO 121. The company acquired 25% interest in the 3,787-sq km (1,462-sq mi) block MLO 123. Total won the operatorship and 37.5% interest. YPF acquired the remaining 37.5%.

In the Austral basin, Equinor won operatorship of the 2,157-sq km (833-sq mi) block AUS 105 and the 2,283-sq km (881-sq mi) block AUS 106.

ExxonMobil Argentina Offshore Investments B.V. and an affiliate of Qatar Petroleum won three exploration blocks in the Malvinas basin. ExxonMobil secured operatorship of blocks MLO 113, MLO 117, and MLO 118, with 70% interest. Qatar Petroleum acquired 30%. The blocks are about 320 km (200 mi) offshore Tierra del Fuego. The initial work program will include 3D seismic data acquisition.

Qatar Petroleum also acquired 40% interest in blocks CAN-107 and CAN-109 in the Argentina basin. An affiliate of Shell won the operatorship and 60% interest.

Eni won operatorship and 80% interest of the 4,418-sq km (1,706-sq mi) block MLO 124 in the Malvinas basin. Partners Tecpetrol S.A. and Mitsui & Co. Ltd. each secured 10% interest. Located about 100 km (62 mi) offshore Tierra del Fuego, the block lies in water depths ranging from less than 100 to 650 m (328 to 2,133 ft).

Tullow Oil won operatorship of three blocks in the Malvinas basin. It secured 100% interest in block MLO 122. The company and partners Wintershall Dea and Pluspetrol secured shares in the 6,000-sq km (2,317-sq mi) block MLO-114 and the 4,500-sq km (1,737-sq mi) block MLO-119. The blocks are about 300 km (186 mi) offshore Tierra del Fuego in water depths of up to 500 m (1,640 ft).

Total and BP won blocks CAN 111 and CAN 113 in the Argentina basin.

With Argentina’s second offshore license round expected to open this year, geophysical contractors have recently launched acquisition and reprocessing projects.

Spectrum, in cooperation with BGP, is conducting a 20,000-km (12,427-mi) 2D seismic survey in the Colorado and Salado basins. The BGP Pioneer is acquiring the data with a 12-km (7.5-mi) streamer with continuous recording to image deep reflection and high fold data. This will support full interpretation from Moho to water bottom, Spectrum said. The data will be processed with pre-stack time migration, pre-stack depth migration, and broadband products. First deliveries are expected in 2Q 2019.

Searcher Seismic has expanded the Argentina Super-Tie 2D reprocessing project. Following Phase 1, which specifically targeted the first round, the project has now been extended to include all available offshore 2D seismic data in the Malvinas and Austral basins. .

The Argentina Super-Tie 2D PSTM reprocessing project expands Searcher’s data library in Argentina, which currently includes 200,000 km (12,427 mi) of rectified 2D, 1,865 sq km (720 sq mi) of 3D, and 11,171 km (6,941 mi) of Pre-STM broadband reprocessed data. Data deliverables expected to be available in 4Q 2019. •

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