Argentina on right path to solve fiscal deficit, boost energy output – Tecpetrol

By Thomson Reuters Mar 19, 2024 | 10:03 AM

By Marianna Parraga

HOUSTON (Reuters) – Argentina is in a “very bad” political situation, but is on the right path to encourage energy investment and remove its fiscal imbalances if a package of reforms proposed by President Javier Milei passes the Congress, CEO of producer Tecpetrol said on Tuesday.

Argentina this year has begun cutting planned imports of liquefied natural gas (LNG), a move seen as a first step to reduce the country’s fiscal deficit, Tecpetrol CEO Ricardo Markous said at the CERAWeek by S&P conference in Houston.

Building out needed infrastructure for exporting some of Argentina’s natural gas as LNG should be the long-term solution, Markous said.

However, Argentina’s senate last week rejected Milei’s sprawling “mega decree” of economic reforms, a major blow to the libertarian leader’s austerity agenda. That plan included removing long-standing energy subsidies to solve a balance of payments deficit mainly caused by energy imports, including gas from Bolivia and liquefied natural gas (LNG) cargoes.

At least two large projects to produce and export LNG in Argentina, one involving Malaysia’s Petronas and another by Tecpetrol, are under discussion. Energy executives have said the reform is needed to secure fair export prices and an adequate return on their investment.

“The politicians (in Argentina) are realizing that the best way to monetize the gas reserves is through LNG,” Markous said.

Markous said some shale gas plays in Argentina are more competitive in terms of production costs and speed than some U.S. regions, but amid the current economic situation and the fiscal measures to come, a further reduction in production costs is needed.

If Milei’s reforms are approved, Argentina could see a surplus in its energy trade balance this year, compared with large deficits in previous years, while oil production could reach up to 1.5 million barrels per day (bpd) in the coming years from about 700,000 bpd last year, Markous added.

(Reporting by Mariana Parraga; Editing by Marguerita Choy)