I’ve been writing over the last several months about the world’s top natural gas play — the growing demand center of Argentina.
And this week, things got even tighter in terms of supply here. Making the entire region more attractive for producers.
That became apparent from a critical piece of news emerging over the weekend in Argentina’s neighbor to the northwest: Bolivia. Where lifeline exports of natgas into the Argentinean market are apparently dwindling fast.
Local papers in Bolivia reported that state energy firm YPFB failed to meet natgas export commitments this past July. With sources quoting Bolivian Vice President Alvaro Garcia Linera as saying that shipments to Argentina for that month totalled just 15.4 million cubic meters per day — at least 23% lower than the volumes of 19.9 to 23.4 million cubic meters that YPFB is contractually obligated to provide.
So what’s causing Bolivia to fall short on its natgas commitments? Apparently rising demand closer to home.
Vice President Linera told papers simply, “There are priorities in the domestic market.” Going on to note that Bolivia’s natgas production is perfectly stable, but that more of the supply is being used in the country — leaving less for export.
The critical point for the regional energy picture is, Bolivia’s government believes the shortfall may continue. As Linares told the press, “We are happy about the increase in demand in the Bolivian market. If it increases more, that is perfect. We must continue to supply [the local market] because it is the priority.”
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For its part, Argentina’s state energy firm Enarsa has reportedly levelled a fine of $2.1 million against Bolivia’s YPFB for failing to meet contract volumes. But such small penalties are unlikely to deter Bolivian officials from resuming supplies at the expense of the local market.
All of which means that supply could be about to get even tighter in Argentina. Putting further pressure on lawmakers here to raise prices in order to spur domestic production.
This development could also be good for natgas developers in neighboring Chile. With Argentina’s government saying last week that it plans to up imports from Chilean producers in order to meet any supply shortfalls.
Overall, the fundamentals looks very supportive for prices and natgas development across this region. Watch for rising prices and ensuing projects being launched in Argentina, Chile, Bolivia and beyond.