Argentine president Cristina Fernandez announced on Wednesday that wellhead natural gas prices are to rise substantially from current levels, an estimated 44%, with the purpose of attracting more investments and increasing production.
Argentina which is anxious to attract private investment to bring hefty shale energy resources on stream said wellhead prices would rise to 7.50 dollars per million British Thermal Units (BTU). The current price ceiling is about 5 dollars per million BTU, although prices at the wellhead average about 2.50 per million BTU in the Neuquen basin in southern Argentina, the country's main production zone.
Lower price caps had been part of a policy of supporting local industrial energy users and keeping home bills frozen, but forced Argentina in 2011 to import 3.5 billion dollars in hydrocarbons.
We've decided to give incentives for gas production Cristina Fernandez said at the end of an industrial forum to which was also invited her peer from Brazil, Dilma Rousseff. She added that the new price would be available for all energy companies that invest to develop new fields in the South American nation.
The government earlier this month vowed to increase consumer prices for natural gas and electricity as state-controlled energy company YPF hopes to lure partners to invest in the Vaca Muerta shale site, which may hold enough resources to double Argentina's oil and natural gas output.
A US Department of Energy report shows Argentina holds more natural gas trapped in shale rock than in all of Europe - a 774-trillion-cubic-feet bounty that could transform the outlook for Western Hemisphere supply.
YPF and US-based Chevron Corp have already signed a deal to consider jointly exploring for shale oil and natural gas in Vaca Muerta.
“We’re developing investment projects to diversify our energy matrix”, underlined the Argentine president adding that the country can overcome its current energy deficit in the mid term, and again defended the decision to nationalize a majority stake in YPF.
“Since we’ve recovered YPF there are no more queues at gasoline stations, and this was maybe because business decisions wanted Argentina and the Argentines upset over shortages. My apologies but I have become quiet susceptible about some business decisions during my government”, said Cristina Fernandez.
“The option was quite simple: instead of spending 3.5 billion overseas, let’s invest here in Argentina and produce our own gas, we have more than sufficient”, affirmed the Argentine leader.