ChevronTexaco Expects Wage Dispute Solution by Feb.13

US oil company ChevronTexaco expects Argentina's hydrocarbons exploration and production chamber to negotiate a wage settlement with the national federation of oil workers' unions by February 13, a company spokesperson said.

The government ordered a 15-day negotiating period from January 29, which was the same day that Neuquen province's Rio Negro oil workers' union held a 24-hour strike that paralyzed oil and gas production in the province. ChevronTexaco lost 60,000 barrels of gross oil production that day as a result, the company's public affairs manager in Buenos Aires, Ricardo Aguirre, told BNamericas. There was no damage to installations, he said.

Aguirre and other ChevronTexaco officials expressed their concern about the dispute during a meeting with Neuquen governor Jorge Sobisch on February 1. "We hope that just as ChevronTexaco risks its capital, invests and pays taxes and royalties, the [Neuquen] government will do its part by ensuring public order," Aguirre said.

ChevronTexaco has not threatened to stop its investment in Neuquen but "the investment climate is undoubtedly influenced by the security in our work environment," he said. The company still plans to invest US$150mn in Neuquen in 2004 through its local subsidiary Chevron San Jorge, about 15% more than last year. Most of the investment will be in the El Trapial field, which Chevron San Jorge operates with an 85% interest.

ChevronTexaco also operates the El Sauce field in Neuquen and marginal fields Las Tacamas, Corralera and Canadon del Puma. The company currently produces 55,000 barrels a day (b/d) gross in Neuquen, of which 85%, or 46,750b/d, is net to the company, Aguirre said. ChevronTexaco currently produces 60,000b/d equivalent net in Argentina.

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