Argentina's state oil company Enarsa has launched a new LNG tender and will open offers on Thursday (Apr 12), a source close to the matter told BNamericas.
The tender is for shipments of LNG to be delivered to the Bahía Blanca and Escobar plants between May and August, according to international press reports.
The country's increasing reliance on imported fuel has prompted the government to put pressure on the oil and gas sector to increase domestic production.
Earlier this year President Cristina Fernández called on oil companies to reinvest in Argentina, saying the country imported US$9bn worth of fuel in 2011 - up 110% from 2010.
"In 2011 the energy sector saw a trade deficit of US$4.5bn, and this year it's likely to double," the country's former energy secretary Emilio Apud said in a February interview with BNamericas.
The government has paid around US$16/MBTU for LNG imports while price restrictions, in place since the 2001 economic crisis, mean domestically produced gas sells at approximately US$2.50/MBTU.
The price discrepancy has been a bone of contention for many industry players, but Argentina's power system relies on gas-fired plants for more than half its generating capacity so the government has little choice but to pay the market price.
At the same time, the state has demanded a 15% production increase from locally operating companies over the next two years and is withdrawing concession licenses which are found to be lacking in investment and production.
Sanctions have centered on Spanish firm Repsol's (NYSE: REP) local branch YPF, leading to speculation that the government is aiming to devalue the firm in advance of an aggressive takeover.
The provincial government of Santa Cruz is the latest to move against the firm, announcing that it intends to strip licenses in the areas Cañadón Vasco, Pico Truncado-El Cordón and Los Perales.
Santa Cruz is the company's highest producing province, with 31% of total production, the authority statement said.
Meanwhile, YPF said in a statement on April 9 that Repsol CEO Antonio Brufau has formally requested a meeting with the federal government.
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(Originally published April 10, 2012, in Business News Americas.)