Wintershall Buys 27% of CAA-35 Offshore Argentina

German oil and gas company Wintershall has signed a deal to buy 27% of offshore block CAA-35 in Argentina's Austral basin (Cuenca Marina Austral, CMA) from French operator Total, and is awaiting approval from the energy department, Wintershall Energia exploration & new business manager Gerhard Hasse told BNamericas.

Total is left with a 35.5% interest, while Spain's Repsol-YPF holds the remaining 37.5%. The consortium plans to drill its first well on Gemini in 2004, Hasse said, adding, "We think it's a nice structure to be drilled, we hope there are liquids [because] if it was only gas we wouldn't be interested, because we have enough gas."

Wintershall's share of the drilling expenses is the main reason for doubling its exploration budget in Argentina to US$19mn in 2004. Plans focus on liquids rather than gas, which "is still difficult because the domestic price is down," Hasse said, adding "we are exporting gas [to Chile] and that's keeping us happy, but the local market is still not good."

In the offshore CMA-1 block, plans are to hire a rig in 2004 to drill one well in the Carina structure and two wells in the Aires structure, "and then we will see how the wells behave," Hasse said.

Development was scheduled to begin in 2002, but was halted due to low natural gas prices. Total has a 37.5% stake in CMA-1 and is the operator, Wintershall has 37.5% and Argentina's Pan American Energy has 25%.

NEUQUEN Wintershall was recently awarded the La Invernada block, and has found a company to partner on the block in a 50/50 joint venture, Hasse said, adding that the partner's name will be announced when the deal is wrapped up towards the end of 2003. Wintershall and its partner will reprocess existing seismic data in 2004 and shoot 3D seismic in early 2005, with drilling depending on the results of the seismic, Hasse said, adding "there is no commitment to drill." In the Bandurria block, the consortium - operator Repsol YPF, Wintershall, and Pan American - has acquired 3D seismic studies covering the whole block, which were completed last week, Hasse said, adding a decision whether to drill will be taken in 2004. In Ranquil Norte, Wintershall is in a farm out process and will announce the partner in 1Q04, Hasse said. The partners will shoot 2D and 3D seismic in 2004. In San Roque block, which is operated by Total, the consortium started 3D seismic in October, Hasse said, adding that the consortium hopes to find liquids there. Wintershall prefers to work in partnerships on its Neuquen blocks, he said, adding, "We're diluting our exposure to one particular block, and I always say I'd rather drill in three blocks with 30% than one with 100%." In Chubut province, the company is still conducting geophysical studies on two other blocks, San Jorge and Gan-Gan,, where it acts as operator in 50-50 joint ventures with Repsol YPF, and seismic studies are planned in 2004, Hasse said.

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