Argentina Drums Up Energy Investment Interest From Qatar
Mon, 01/08/2016 - 11:36

Argentina's government has drummed up interest from Qatar to help increase the country's flagging energy supplies, Cabinet Chief Marcos Pena said Friday.

Building closer ties with Qatar is high on the agenda for Argentina's new president, Mauricio Macri, Pena said in a televised news conference a day after a state visit by Qatar.

"It's very important because [Qatar] is an energy power," he said.

Qatar's ruling emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani, met with Macri in Buenos Aires late Thursday, and his delegation suggested it would "start to work as quickly as possible" to deepen relations with Argentina, Pena said.

In a statement earlier Friday, Macri's office said Qatar expressed interest in investing in agribusiness, infrastructure and energy in Argentina.

No specific projects were mentioned, and the Energy Ministry did not have further information.

Macri has been seeking to drum up investment in the energy sector since taking office in December with the goal of rebuilding production after years of decline. Oil production has tumbled 38% since a record 847,000 b/d in 1998, while gas has dropped 16% from a record 143 million cu m/d in 2004, leading to shortages and a surge in imports.

Qatar has been supplying LNG to Argentina over the past few years.

Argentina also buys LNG from Australia, Nigeria, Trinidad and Tobago and other markets for regasification at two floating terminals.

Macri, however, said earlier this month he wants to phase out LNG imports over the next five to six years, a goal to be achieved by ramping up local gas production through increased investment.

Argentina has huge shale and tight resources in the southwest, which companies like state-run YPF, Chevron and Dow Chemical are putting into production. The development of plays like Lajas and Vaca Muerta has led to a 6.8% increase in production to an average of 121.4 million cu m/d in the first five months of 2016 from a 10-year low of 113.7 million cu m/d in 2014, according to Energy Ministry data.

Even so, an estimated $10 billion or more a year in investment is needed for mass development to offset maturing conventional reserves, according to the Argentine Oil and Gas Institute, an industry group.