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Chemical Oil Recovery in Argentina

About the author:

Diego Perez is Manager of Conventional Oil and Gas Field Development at YPF, with responsibility for the Western Area of Santa Cruz. With 15 years of industry experience, he has demonstrated his expertise in EOR leading polymer injection projects totaling 39 injectors. Additionally, he has played key roles as a reservoir engineer, simulation specialist, technical leader and university professor of petroleum engineering. His technical contribution is reflected in more than 20 articles presented at conferences and specialized forums, both in Argentina and abroad.


Although the origin of chemical EOR dates back to the 1960s, it has recently received a reinterpretation that granted its potential to be demonstrated in the field. Initially adopted strategy has been reviewed in recent decades and paved the way forward for higher concentration polymer flooding successful cases in Marmul, Daqing, Pelican Lake, Mangala, and others. The massive injection into these giants proves the immense opportunity hidden within
mature reservoirs and how to develop it. The success stories from around the globe bring to light the technique’s versatility and its
potential application across a variety of cases. Operators and service companies have made significant advances worldwide, reflecting the technique’s growing credibility. In Argentina, though the scale of efforts has been comparatively modest and scattered, there is clearly a momentum in expanding the application and improving the process of EOR. Notably, companies like CAPSA, PAE, Pluspetrol, and YPF are advancing on EOR projects.


Political-regulatory context is always central to the implementation of investment projects in Argentina. However, given the current context aimed at aligning the price of a local barrel with the international market, projects that maximize production may be attractive to companies that could operate these mature fields. Precisely the EOR is presented as a viable alternative to reduce water cuts and increase the ratio between barrel produced and water injected. Particularly, polymer injection has already been assessed in both the Neuquén Basin and the Golfo San Jorge Basin with excellent results. At the same time, modular technology for surface facilities allows rapid implementation in the field and reduction in pilot testing costs.


From a tax point of view, the EOR also presents the advantage granted by provinces that seek to encourage their development by reducing royalties for this type of incremental oil as provided by law. Oil production and all related activities are usually of high importance for local administration as a source of royalties and employment. Local economies are more often than not dependent to some degree on oil production, for this reason local governments often take a keen interest in advancing EOR projects.


While some types of EOR such as thermal methods have an unfavorable effect in terms of emissions, others like polymer injection have usually a net favorable effect for the environment in terms of carbon intensity of each barrel produced. It all relies on being able to produce more oil with no increment on liquid production or injection. By achieving this balance, we create a more efficient operation optimizing the overall energy consumed per barrel of oil produced.

The Road Behind

The success of polymer injection in the Golfo San Jorge and Neuquen Basin has opened the door to extend this technique to other fields with the promise of an efficient increase in total production.
However, the operating costs of a large part of mature fields make this promise an economic challenge for anyone who wants to undertake these operations. Furthermore, response times of the field tests necessary prior to massification of the technology and the required investments in both capital and operating expenses can also become an obstacle in the way of EOR in Argentina. Nevertheless, the successful expansion cases in Manantiales Berh in Golfo San Jorge
Basin as wells as Chachahuen in Neuquen Basin demonstrates that response to polymer injection can reach its peak value in a matter of just a few months. This highlights the operational feasibility and potential rapid benefits of EOR in the right conditions.

The Road Ahead

The way to chemical EOR is by no means straightforward, it requires capital expenditure on facilities and incremental operating expenses on product and treatment, but also deeper reservoir understanding and tailored testing and piloting. Today´s preferred targets for this technology are higher viscosity reservoirs left virtually unproduced as well as those poorly waterflooded. Considering the vast available potential in Argentina’s mature fields, the rewards of implementing EOR technology are too compelling to ignore. Thus, the challenge is clear, and the stakes are high, but the opportunities for revitalizing Argentina’s oil fields through EOR are immense.