Fight between Río Negro and Buenos Aires over gas megaproject? 50 billion dollars – Más Río Negro

Fight between Río Negro and Buenos Aires over gas megaproject? 50 billion dollars – Más Río Negro
Fight between Río Negro and Buenos Aires over gas megaproject? 50 billion dollars – Más Río Negro

According to a journalistic outlet in Bahía Blanca, in Punta Colorada, near Sierra Grande (Río Negro) there are only 4 inhabitants and little infrastructure. Instead, The port of Ingeniero White has experience in handling hydrocarbons: the regasification vessels that have moored on its coasts in recent years.

Below is what was published (verbatim) by the Bahia newspaper La Nueva.

What is Punta Colorada, the town of 4 inhabitants that disputes the LNG plant in Bahía

The alternative to the local port managed by YPF for the Vaca Muerta gas export megaproject is an almost inactive area of ​​​​the Rio Negro coast.

According to the latest available data, the town of Punta Colorada (province of Río Negro) has only 4 inhabitants. The information comes from the 2010 national census, which marks a population decrease of 66.6% considering the 12 people who lived there according to the 2001 census.

For reasons that are difficult to know, there are no details on the demographic evolution in 2022, since the official information only provides as a most approximate figure the number of people who live in the Department of San Antonio, where Punta Colorada is located. In that entire area, the latest census indicates, there are 35,800 inhabitants.

Located on the San Matías Gulf, a short distance from the border with Chubut, the best moments of the tiny Punta Colorada were experienced last century with the rise of its mineral portwhere the production of the nearby town of Sierra Grande left.

However, all that movement is past since the mine was closed in 1992 by the government of Carlos Menem and, although the operation was later acquired by the Chinese company Metallurgical Corporation of China, the tasks were suspended in 2017, despite the fact that the Asian firm maintains rights over the deposits. of iron.

Since then, stillness and silence have dominated the dock and its surroundings, as well as the expectation that some super mining or energy project will prevent it from becoming a completely forgotten town.

Today, the name of Punta Colorada regains relevance because it became, despite its very limited port and urban infrastructure, a Bahía Blanca’s main competitor to host the LNG megaproject which the Argentine oil company YPF will undertake together with the Malaysian Petronas.

It is a investment estimated at 50 billion dollarswhich includes the construction of 3 gas pipelines similar to the Néstor Kirchner to export gas from Vaca Muerta, first through floating factories (regasification vessels) and, later, through a plant on land that will demand most of the resourcesas well as generate thousands of jobs.

The Punta Colorada option managed by the current YPF authorities is a curious alternative, to say the least, since it suffers from numerous, if not all, disadvantages compared to Bahía. Just to mention a basic point, The port of Ingeniero White has extensive experience in the management of hydrocarbons: The best-known example is the regasification vessels that have moored on its coasts in recent years.

As if that were not enough know how and specialized labor, it can be added that in the local port terminal there are better navigability conditions, better weather conditions and no extra works required for the start-up of the LNG project. You simply have to set up the plant and start exporting.

In Punta Colorada it would be necessary to create almost everything from scratchwhich implies not only higher costs but an immense loss of time before having the infrastructure ready to bring the gas from Vaca Muerta to the world, Argentina’s best hope to significantly increase its export volume and, therefore, generate genuine foreign exchange.

YPF-Petronas estimate that for the next decade, based on this LNG plant, the country could export an additional 30 billion dollars, an inestimable sum if one considers that in a very good year of harvests and favorable international prices our country sells, as a maximum, for 80 billion. In fact, 2023, a low year in terms of foreign trade, the total exported volume was 66,788 million dollars.

With these numbers it is clear why This investment is key for the economic future of the country and it is also highlighted that It would be inexplicable to choose a place that would require wasting too much time in countless complementary constructions.

The thing is that, although they are a basic primary element, not only port conditions are key. Bahía Blanca is a city that has many more services to offer to the hundreds (probably thousands) of people who will have to settle in to work in the different stages of the development of this project. Homes, hotels, shops, recreation sites, sports and educational institutions of all levels are some of the others obvious differences in favor of Bahía Blanca with respect to the Río Negro proposalnot to mention the number of access routes and the existence of an operational airport.

A chapter could even be added that is not insignificant. In our district there is a profound political, business, academic and social coincidence about what Bahía can and should offer to be the best headquarters for this project, as was reflected yesterday in a meeting in the Port where all the representative forces of the city were united.

On Rio Negro soil they will have to overcome a problem as complex as it is recurring for that province, since In Punta Colorada and the area there is a history of claims from the Mapuche communities who claim territorial rights.

A recent case occurred during the government of Alberto Fernández, when the Australian company Fortescue announced that it would begin work for the development of a Green Hydrogen complex for 7 billion dollars in that town, but among other obstacles it encountered, according to with different articles from the newspaper “Río Negro”, with the opposition of the native peoples to the transfer of public lands that, according to them, belong to them by ancestral right.

still today the topic is stuck and, the Fortescue plan, went to the freezer.

Even the oil pipeline planned by YPF to take San Matías to the Gulf finds strong resistance from environmental organizations in that region. A multi-sector environmentalist launched a national campaign against this initiative, warning of the potential consequences of an eventual oil spill in the Argentine sea.

Land reservation and Basic Law

In the port of Bahía Blanca, since 2017, there is a reserve of 1,200 hectares by YPF-Petronas to develop the LNG plant. In formal terms, no one informed the Management Consortium that the local alternative had been weakened, much less ruled out.

However, recent public statements by the president of YPF, Horacio Marín, stated that what seemed obvious is no longer so. The official expressed that Punta Colorada has a good chance of being the final destination of the mega-investment, a request from the governors of Río Negro and Neuquén, Alberto Weretilneck and Rolando Figueroa.

In any case, a key point for this process to advance, as Marín explained, is for the Senate to approve the Bases Law, which among other things contains the Incentive Regime for Large Companies (RIGI), the regulations that the head of the The national oil company defined it as essential for the LNG project to come to fruition, wherever it may be.

The land reservation in the Bahia port expires in August, although it is a common format to set short deadlines and sign renewals on a regular basis. Different voices have assured in recent times that the final decision on the location of the LNG plant will be communicated in June. However, no deadlines are included in any formal file.

Despite that, it is evident that the countdown has begun.

Text: La Nueva, Bahía Blanca

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