The changes made by the Government in the Vaca Muerta gas subsidies – which had been fixed in resolution 46 – made investors more cautious. Some were more virulent with the adjustments -like Tecpetrol and YPF- and others are putting their foot on the brake with a lower profile.
That is what happens with Wintershall, the largest oil company in Germany and fourth gas producer in Argentina, which had entered the program due to its participation in the Aguada Pichana Este block, operated by the French company Total.
The company is analyzing the next investments and decided to move its chips from gas to oil. The firm operates two blocks of shale oil in Vaca Muerta and will concentrate its efforts there.
“We are satisfied with the Government of Mauricio Macri because it gave signals, such as the prices, that were necessary for the industry. But the amendment to resolution 46 was somewhat different from what we expected, which were stable and predictable parameters. He hit us financially the decision. It meant a great loss, “said Thilo Wieland, in charge of Wintershall’s business for Latin America as part of the company’s annual conference in which Argentine journalists participated.
Mario Mehren, CEO of the oil company, allowed himself an irony: “I would like to see stable rules, a resolution that does not only last a minister, but a couple of years,” he said in relation to the 46 was signed by Juan José Aranguren, two ministers behind. “We saw a permanent change of rules of the game that we will not be able to handle,” he insisted. “We like Argentina, we know how to work there, but you have to earn money in Argentina.”
Despite the unrest, the company plans to invest US $ 600 million over the next three years to maintain its current projects in Tierra del Fuego, Neuquén and Mendoza. The company operates two blocks of shale oil in Vaca Muerta, called Aguada Federal and Bandurria Norte, where they completed the pilot stage. Now they are analyzing the results to move to the stage of massive development, which will imply an extra outlay that will be defined before the end of the year.
Meanwhile, they will wait for the Government to clarify the new conditions for the Vaca Muerta gas. “Only one auction (with better prices) in winter is not enough,” Wieland said, regarding the plans he allowed to go beyond Energy.
The company also suffered the delay in the payment of the Gas Plan, which the Government canceled with bonds. They are US $ 120 million.
Another pending project is the Fénix, in Tierra del Fuego, attached to its current deposits of Carina-Aries and Vega Pleyade, which the oil company shares with Pan American Energy and Total. There is the heart of the Wintershall production.
The development implies a mega-investment of US $ 1,000 million and its definition will remain after the elections. “I hope the government will continue on the path to the free market. We have not yet developed the Phoenix project because we do not know the rules of the game, “admitted Mehren in perfect Spanish, as he lived several years in Chile. “If the rules are not clear, we go somewhere else.”
Mehren highlighted the agreement with the IMF and the announcement that the agency’s support will continue beyond whoever wins in October.
In addition to the current overproduction of gas, they want to know how the tax framework will continue. German managers repeatedly criticized export withholdings. And they believe that Argentina needs infrastructure and an improvement in productivity if it wants Vaca Muerta to take off.
Despite these setbacks, Wintershall is part of one of the 15 companies that presented the antecedents in the bidding for offshore areas being carried out by the Government and whose offers are opened on April 14. They will be with partners and they will not be operators.
The look of the oil company is set in Brazil, where last year seven exploration licenses were awarded on the north and southeast coast. In that country they hope to expand their asset portfolio.