Argentina watch: YPF, Río Neuquén, gas price updates

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Monday, October 17, 2016

The governor of Argentina's Mendoza province, Alfredo Cornejo, signed a decree authorizing a 25-year hydrocarbon exploitation concession for national oil company YPF at the Mesa Verde area.

Following successful exploratory results, YPF will invest approximately US$37.3mn in the drilling of nine wells, plus US$10.4mn in complementary works, a local government statement said.

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Initial oil production on a per-well basis is expected to average 50-70m3 (314-440b/d).

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Pampa Energía completed its divestiture of a 67% stake in the Río Neuquén hydrocarbons concession to YPF and Petrobras.

The divestment was a prerequisite for Pampa's US$897mn acquisition of a controlling stake in Petrobras Argentina from Rio de Janeiro-based Petrobras.

Pampa, Petrobras and YPF will now hold respective stakes of 33%, 33.6% and 33.3% in Río Neuquén, considered a high-potential asset due to its shale and tight gas resources.

Pampa also divested 100% ownership of the Aguada de la Arena concession to YPF under the deal.

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A new pricing framework in Argentina for natural gas production, transportation and distribution will have a mixed impact on upstream operators, according to a Raymond James research note.

The recently ratified plan to phase out subsidies and increase rates will mainly benefit producers who are not affected by the government's US$7.50/MMBtu incentivized wellhead price for new natural gas output, the note said, "as [those producers'] average price should increase in-line with the increase in gas pricing at the wellhead."

"On the other hand, the announcement should have no material impact on companies operating under an incentive program, due to the way in which average prices are calculated under such programs."

The US$7.50/MMBtu incentivized price has mainly benefitted producers of shale and tight gas, since nearly all new gas output in the country is coming from unconventional formations.

For pipeline operator TGS, Raymond James said: "The final effect should be positive, since the new regulation, which reiterated the 200% tariff increase [in Argentine pesos] announced in April, will be charged to all TGS' clients."