Markous at the AOG: “We have to attract young Argentines to the energy industry”
The CEO of Tecpetrol took part in the Meeting with CEOs with his peers from the world of unconventional hydrocarbon exploration and production in the Neuquén Basin, as part of the Argentina Oil & Gas event, a regional exhibition that attracted some 26,000 people to the La Rural Exhibition Center.
In relaxed surroundings, Ricardo Markous, CEO of Tecpetrol, took part in the final Meeting with CEOs, the representatives of the main companies operating in the Neuquén Basin, which closed the busy four-day agenda of activities and conferences for the AOG 2023. The event is the high spot on the calendar for the hydrocarbons industry in the region, and this year it was held from September 11 to September 14 at the La Rural Exhibition Center in Buenos Aires, attracting an audience of some 26,000 over its four days. Coordinated by Ernesto Pérez Anadón, president of the Argentine Oil and Gas Institute (IAPG), Markous’s fellow panelists included Horacio Turri, the Executive Director for E&P of Pampa Energía and Adrián Vila, the Country Manager of Argentina from Pluspetrol.
Before a ‘stoic audience’ of industry experts, who followed the last panel featured in the program with great attention, Ricardo Markous discussed Tecpetrol's recent record in Vaca Muerta and the outlook for the future, in response to the direct question of what the company intends to do in the next ten years. "Fortín de Piedra achieved the production record of 24 million m3/day, which is more than 20% of all the gas produced in Neuquén and equivalent to 67% of what Bolivia produces today. However, we are limited by demand, so we need to look further afield to regional markets," he commented.
He added that, “The Gas.Ar Plan will allow winter production levels to be maintained and permit the company to access a 30% gas export quota, starting in 2025,” which explains the course the company is charting for the next ten years. "We will be sustaining our investment commitments of USD 500 million a year to maintain gas production levels, and we will be moving into oil and LNG," he concluded. The Los Toldos II Este and Sitio Parada areas will allow the company to produce about 100,000 barrels of oil equivalent (boe) per day, between gas and oil. “In the meantime, we are investing several hours of engineering in developing LNG, with a view to moving fast when the right conditions are in place.”
As the third-largest producer in the Basin, Pampa Energía is aspiring to supply 20% of domestic market needs thanks to the project to reverse the Northern gas pipeline and to progress on the second stage of the GPNK, enabling it to reach Brazil and Chile in its search of external markets. “Chile is keen to reach decarbonization by using natural gas for its mining industry,” pointed out Horacio Turri, adding that the company has a project to build an LNG plant through an agreement with TGS, and another to build a wind farm with Total Gas which is still at the pilot phase.
Pluspetrol is aiming to "reach the Neuquén Basin podium," as its objective is to be producing 10 million m3/day by the end of December at its fields in La Calera, a block which it shares equally with YPF, currently producing 5 million m3/day of gas and 1,000 m3 of associated liquids. Looking at the medium to long term, "the goal is to reach 20 million m3/day, as long as the market allows it," highlighted Adrián Vila, who discussed different projects, including one involving cryptocurrencies.
More than access to foreign currency
In a somewhat provocative tone, the moderator pointed to other needs in the industry. "Everything sounds like it’s merely at the planning stage, where all we’re seeing is development potential but few financial resources. Now, access to resources is clearly necessary, but we are also lacking other things, such as infrastructure," raised Ernesto Pérez Anadón, asking the executives present for their input. "Vaca Muerta desperately needs to improve its road infrastructure, currently in poor shape, to transport the 4.5 million tons of sand required for 20,000 stages per day," explained Markous. "However, one key issue we face is training and expertise: we must attract more young Argentines to the energy industry as a whole, and for that we must work together, in coordination with all the producing companies."
"Fortín de Piedra was built at a very special time, and we were able to take advantage of the entire metalworking industry in the Rosario and Córdoba area," he reflected. “For outsiders, it seems absolutely extraordinary that we were able to build it all from scratch in just 18 months; "Now we expect things to move a little more slowly, but the idea is to take advantage of the technical gene in the Techint Group’s DNA to develop our projects."
As the panel reached its end, the executives talked about targets such as reaching a thousand wells, the challenges of the so-called “second field” and the complexities of the industry, all imbued with a certain optimism. "There is a general consensus that energy is front and center of Argentina’s development, something we’ve seen with the Gas.Ar Plan and Resolution 267 to access foreign currency," added Ricardo Markous. "These kinds of incentives show us that gas and oil are crucial macroeconomic drivers and will take the country forward."