Energy profile: Argentina
Fuel mix (fossil fuels vs renewables)
In 2020 Argentina continued to derive more than three quarters of its total energy supply from fossil fuels. Natural gas contributed 59% (up from 54.90% in 2019), followed by oil (27%, down from 32.81%) in 2019). Nuclear energy (4%), hydropower (3%) and coal (1%) each made much smaller contributions to the energy matrix, along with biofuels, wind and solar.
Fossil fuels account for nearly two thirds of Argentina's electrical generation and installed capacity, with renewables (mostly hydro) contributing roughly one third, and nuclear power making up the difference.
Argentina's renewable energy act (Law 27191), passed in 2015, pledges to source 20% of energy from renewables by 2025.
Greenhouse gas emissions targets
As of 2018, Argentina's per capita CO2 emissions from fuel combustion (3.9 tons annually) were among the highest in Latin America and the Caribbean. The country's NDC (Nationally Determined Contribution) plan released in December 2020 called for a 26% reduction in GHG emissions by 2030 and pledged to release long-term emissions targets (through 2050) in time for the Glasgow COP 26 summit in November 2021. However, Argentina failed to release a long-term emissions strategy at the COP 26 meeting and declined to join 50 other countries in pledging to abandon coal-fired power in the coming decade, opting only to sign on to voluntary agreements calling for net zero deforestation and a 30% decrease in methane emissions by 2030.
Government energy agencies & other key players
National energy agencies
Argentina's Secretaría de Energía, a sub-secretariat of the Ministerio de Economía, is the Argentine government agency in charge of energy policy.
IEASA (Integración Energética Argentina SA) is the state-owned energy agency responsible for the production, transport, and trade of petroleum, natural gas, and electricity.
MAyDS (Ministerio de Ambiente y Desarrollo Sostenible) is the Argentine environmental authority responsible for granting licenses for new power generation projects.
Enargas is responsible for regulation and control of natural gas transmission and distribution in Argentina.
ENRE (Ente Nacional Regulador de Electricidad) is the regulatory authority that manages the generation, transmission and distribution of electricity nationwide.
IEASA (Integración Energética Argentina SA) is Argentina's largest electric utility company.
National oil company
YPF (Yacimientos Petrolíferos Fiscales), Argentina's state-run petroleum company, is involved in conventional and unconventional oil and gas exploration, production, and distribution.
Leading energy companies
Pampa Energía, AES and Grupo Albanesi are among the largest private energy companies operating in Argentina.
As of 2020, Argentina's installed capacity totaled roughly 42 GW (up from 37.9 GW in 2019), with fossil fuels accounting for 60.46% of the total, followed by hydro at 27.04%, wind at 6.25% (up from 4.06% in 2019), and solar at 1.81% (up from 1.1% in 2019).
Argentina generated roughly 131 TWh of electricity in 2020, sourced 64.65% from fossil fuels (vs. 61.75% in 2019), 18.47% from hydro (vs. 27.25% in 2019), 8.13% from nuclear (vs 6.11% in 2019), 7.18% from wind (vs. 3.85% in 2019), and less than 2% from solar and biomass energy.
Argentina consumed 125 TWh of electricity in 2018, ranking 30th in the world.
Coal in Argentina
Argentina is a relatively minor producer of coal, and domestic production has steadily declined over the past decade. Production at the country's largest coal mine, Río Turbio Mine, has long struggled to meet promised production targets, while the mine and the adjacent, indefinitely idled Río Turbio power station have been plagued by mismanagement, cost overruns, and allegations of corruption.
Argentina consumed 781,000 metric tons of coal in 2019, ranking 72nd globally.
Argentina imported 1.2 million metric tons of coal in 2018.
Oil & Natural Gas in Argentina
Argentina's 41.6 billion cubic feet of dry natural gas production in 2019 made it the largest natural gas producer in Latin America. In 2020, Argentina was Latin America's fourth largest producer of petroleum and other liquids (after Brazil, Mexico, and Colombia), with production totaling 635,000 barrels per day.
After suffering year-over-year declines in oil (-5.3%) and gas (-8.6%) production in 2020, Argentina's national oil company YPF expects a resurgence iin activity, with a strong focus on the country's unconventional Vaca Muerta deposits, where oil production is projected to grow by as much as 50% between 2021 and 2023. Unconventional oil and gas development has increased rapidly in the decade since Vaca Muerta's discovery, representing 24.9% of Argentina's oil production and 42.8% of gas production in 2020 and helping to compensate for a steady decline in conventional production.
In 2019 Argentina consumed 47.5 billion cubic meters of natural gas (second only to Mexico among Latin American and Caribbean nations). The country ranked third regionally (behind Brazil and Mexico) in consumption of petroleum and other liquids in 2018 (719,000 barrels per day).
The 8.6 million-acre Vaca Muerta formation in Argentina's Neuquén Basin holds some of the world's largest non-conventional shale oil and gas deposits, with technically recoverable oil and natural gas resources estimated at 16 billion barrels and 308 trillion cubic feet, respectively. The Neuquén Basin accounted for 60.7% of Argentina's proved natural gas reserves and 39.8% of proved oil reserves as of 2019. Other important deposits are located in the Golfo de San Jorge (55.2% of proved oil reserves) and the Austral Basin (25.2% of proved natural gas reserves).
Imports & exports
Argentina continues to import natural gas via pipeline from Bolivia under a 20-year contract valid through 2026, though declining Bolivian supplies have resulted in reduced import volumes. These Bolivian imports have historically been supplemented by intermittent imports of LNG through the Escobar and Bahía Blanca terminals, and regasified LNG from Chile.
In 2018, after a decade-long lull, Argentina resumed pipeline exports of natural gas to Chile via the Nor Andino, GasAndes and Pacífico pipelines, and briefly initiated LNG exports from the Tango FLNG Terminal in Bahía Blanca. However, domestic production from Vaca Muerta remains inconsistent, raising the prospect of a need for increased LNG imports to meet growing domestic demand in coming years.
Proposed new projects
Expanded pipeline infrastructure is seen as a key means of creating new markets for Vaca Muerta's non-conventional hydrocarbons, but projects such as the domestic Vaca Muerta Pipeline and the international Vaca Muerta-Brazil Pipeline remain stalled due to financial considerations, competition from LNG imports and Brazilian offshore gas development, and insufficient commitment from key players.
In February 2022, the Argentine government gave the authorization to Ieasa for the construction, maintenance, and operation of the Néstor Kirchner pipeline.
Spanning more than 20,000 kilometers from the Bolivian border to Tierra del Fuego, Argentina's network of natural gas pipelines is the most extensive in Latin America and the sixth largest in the world. Key elements of the domestic supply network include the Norte, Noreste, Centro Oeste, Neuba I and Neuba II, Cordillerano-Patagónico, and San Martín pipelines. These are supplemented by four international pipelines crossing the Andes to Chile.
Renewable Energy in Argentina
Argentina's oil and gas sector benefits from government subsidies, posing competitive challenges for renewable energy development. Both the national government and foreign investors have favored continued development of fossil fuel resources or environmentally disruptive mega-projects over smaller-scale renewables like wind and solar. As of 2020, less than 10% of Argentina's energy came from renewables, well shy of the national goal of 20% by 2025 established under Argentina's renewable energy act (Ley 27.191).
Current renewable energy initiatives include Fortescue Metals' proposed $8.4 billion wind-powered green hydrogen project in Río Negro state and the controversial US$5 billion, 1310 MW Condor Cliff and La Barrancosa projects, Argentina's first large-scale hydroelectric ventures since the Yacyretá Dam in the 1990s.
As of 2021, Argentina has been activiely seeking Chinese investment to enhance their renewable energy sector despite not formally being part of the Belt and Road Initiative. In 2022, Argentina announced China would fully fund a nuclear power plant worth $8.3 billion.
Argentina is a leading producer of lithium, a key element in electric vehicle batteries; the country held an estimated 11% of global lithium reserves as of 2019. Argentine mining companies are enhancing lithium production in order to meet global demand. Argentine lithium businesses are seeking market regulation in order to promote confidence and ensure that a country rich in mineral resources does not have "poor provinces."
Iron & Steel in Argentina
Argentina is Latin America's third leading iron and steel producer after Brazil and Mexico, though its steelmaking industry remains small by world standards. Argentina's largest steel plant, Ternium Siderar, still uses the older, more energy-intensive blast furnace/basic oxygen furnace technology, while the country's other two major steelmakers, ArcelorMittal Acindar and TenarisSiderca, have adopted more energy-efficient EAF (electric arc furnace) technology.
Development of Argentina's unconventional hydrocarbon resources continues to negatively impact local communities, causing depletion of water supplies and environmental contamination from toxic residues associated with fracking. Argentina's Ministry of the Environment has documented numerous negative consequences of climate change, including glacial recession, sea level rise, extreme precipitation and flooding, diminished flows in the La Plata river basin, and the potential for severe water shortages.
Another current topic of environmental controversy is the Chinese-financed Condor Cliff-La Barrancosa hydroelectric mega-project currently under construction in Patagonia; the dams have provoked sustained protests due to their potential impacts on the Río Santa Cruz watershed, the Perito Moreno glacier, endangered endemic species, and the Mapuche y Tehuelche indigenous communities.
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