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OPINION AND ANALYSIS | 01-08-2022 18:02

No to imports: the solution to Argentina’s energy problem lies between the gas and off-shore pipelines

Argentina continues to import gas at very high prices. The combination of the Vaca Muerta gas pipeline and offshore exploitation could create a disruptive change in the country's productive structure.

As a consequence of the war in Ukraine, Europe and the United States are looking for alternative energy suppliers. With Russia out of the picture, there has been a shift in the axis of gas procurement. This is how its price skyrocketed.


In this scenario, Argentina’s position has once again been undermined because it continues to import gas at very high prices. Moreover, due to the scarcity of this resource, companies from different sectors had to start taking turns to continue their production.
To make matters worse, there was the diesel tragedy, a crisis derived from external factors but further complicated by local distortions. Not only did they have to adapt to an expected price increase due to higher demand, but they also suffered a severe shortage of diesel that affected all sectors of the economy, especially those that are strategic for the generation of foreign currency. As a consequence, transport logistics and internal marketing were also severely damaged.


The sad irony is that all this is happening in a country like ours, in the midst of an economic emergency, although with the potential capacity to be self-sufficient in terms of energy demand.


However, we are not here to lament. On the contrary, it seems to us extremely relevant to note that Argentina is facing a great opportunity, as we have been arguing from our Federation.


Certainly, the country will be able to access a completely different dimension at a global level when it consolidates both the operation of the Néstor Kirchner Gas Pipeline and the offshore exploration and exploitation off the coast of Buenos Aires.


We believe that together these initiatives open a historic window towards the economic emancipation of Argentina. That is why we support their full simultaneity in the project for a country that we seek as workers and workers' representatives.


In these complex times, the national government cannot underestimate any opportunity. We believe it is incumbent upon them to look more closely at the continuity of the off-shore project in order to realise its own vision. To refocus on its development, beyond the political timing and the comings and goings linked to the progress of the Néstor Kirchner gas pipeline.


In this way, as representatives of those who will work on the platforms, we are the first to be interested in the safety of the project. We are aware that all the corresponding examinations and analyses have been submitted for its implementation.


We have insisted on this issue, because we understand the fears or reservations that are raised from the environmental perspective or the tourism sector. That is why we say again that the standards around this production are extremely high, with companies such as YPF and Shell fully involved in ensuring safety.


As a reference, there is also Argentina's track record in off-shore exploitation, an activity in which there have never been any contingencies. For our part, we can add that we have been representing workers in the Rio Grande and Magallanes basins since the 1990s. There have been years and years in which there have never been any problems.


But even if, for the sake of conversation, we must imagine a scenario in which these problems occur, we can assert that the conditions are in place to activate salvage immediately and achieve the minimum impact, thanks to the tools available today.


It is also worth clarifying that the platforms will not be seen from the coast of Buenos Aires Province, which is one of the concerns raised by the tourism sector.


Regarding dialogue, the Federation will continue to participate in spaces such as the public hearing that took place recently to analyse the impact of the activity in Mar del Plata and Bahía Blanca.
We will continue to debate on behalf of the workers, focusing on their safety and defending the premise that there must be a balance between production and the environment.

In short, we call for this project to be prioritised in parallel with the Gas Pipeline project. We believe that we are facing a second Vaca Muerta, with the advantage that in the offshore the gas does not have to be transferred to the Buenos Aires Metropolitan Area.
In fact, after due treatment, the gas is already there, available to supply the energy demand of the Metropolitan Area, which is one of the many objectives foreseen for the production coming from Neuquén.


This combination of pipeline and off-shore exploitation could create a disruptive change in the country's productive structure. If it takes hold, it would make it possible to replace imports of energy resources, a viable solution to avoid the misfortune of gas or diesel shortages. And it would generate a spill-over effect throughout the region, especially in the ports of Escobar and Bahía Blanca.


Then, in energy matters, both cities would cease to be the sole destination for imports of expensive Liquid Natural Gas and would finally consolidate themselves as export platforms for national production.

 

* General Secretary of the Sindicato de Petróleo, Gas y Biocombustibles de Bahía Blanca (Oil, Gas and Biofuels Union of Bahia Blanca).

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