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3D seismic exploration in the Southern Basin and the Malvinas is approved

The Ministry of the Interior approved the 3D seismic acquisition project that the Norwegian firm Equinor will carry out in two blocks in the Austral Basin and another in West Malvinas in the Argentine Sea, as part of an offshore exploration campaign.

Resolution 224/2023 published this Wednesday in the Official Gazette and signed by the minister Guillermo Francosapproves seismic exploration in the blocks AUS105, AUS106 and MLO121after the drafting of the Final Technical Review Report, by the national directorates of Environmental Assessment and Environmental Impact Assessment and Environmental Risk Analysis.

The project area is located approximately 26 km away from the nearest coastal city (Rio Grande, Tierra del Fuego), and 22 km from the nearest continental coastal point. The blocks AUS105 and AUS106 They have an approximate area of ​​2129.88 and 2160.01 km2 respectively, while the MLO block 121 It has an area of ​​4283.96 km2. All of them are located within the 200 nautical miles belonging to the Argentine Exclusive Economic Zone.

The report considered all the background of the project’s environmental impact assessment process and the participatory instances carried out. The provision emphasizes that Equinor project operator who, in addition, has as partners: YPF and CGC- must give “strict compliance” to the Environmental Management Plan.

Any update to said plan, in terms of organization, permits and those responsible, must be informed to the Ministry of the Interior in advance. Among the changes that must be notified are those related to the temporary work window and the characteristics of the vessel.

On December 8, the Secretariat of Climate Change, Sustainable Development and Innovation, dependent on the former Ministry of the Environment – an area that previously approved the exploration plans -, terminated the participatory instance of public hearings in order to evaluate the environmental impact of the project.

Previously, Equinor, YPF and CGC They presented the Environmental Impact Study in a virtual public hearing on November 22.

The project is a seismic survey that allows obtaining information about the subsoil and acquiring greater knowledge of the geology of the three blocks awarded in 2019during the administration of the former president Mauricio Macri. It is an area of ​​approximately 6,700 square kilometersat a distance of approximately 26 kilometers offshore from Río Grande.

What is a 3D seismic survey?

The exploration process consists of seismic analysis with specialized vessels that carry ultrasound equipment, which bounces off the seabed and generate 3D images which are analyzed by geologists and geophysicists.

The objective of seismic analysis is to determine if the resources are actually found there and the first step in this is the acquisition of seismic information, which is essential to evaluate the potential of the subsoil.

Offshore seismic 3D.jpg

The results of these investigations do not imply that hydrocarbon exploitation will be carried out. To reach a productive (or exploitation) stage of hydrocarbons, a series of events must first take place that will define this procedure or not. Among them, a new evaluation procedure must be carried out with the respective environmental impact studies and the corresponding permits.

Seismic studies use acoustic pulses induced from the sea surface. Basically, a pressure wave is generated that travels through the water column and enters the crust and then returns to the surface of the sea and is captured by sensors (hydrophones), through which information is obtained about the rock structure of the sea. subsoil. The acoustic source, which generates acoustic pulses, is located on the seismic vessel and travels with it over predetermined navigation lines. All the information obtained is processed to generate 3D maps of the substrate structure.

What did the companies say at the public hearings?

At the public hearing, the country manager of Equinor Argentina, Joseph Freysaid “exploration in the Argentine Sea is one of the projects that Equinor has decided to prioritize worldwide,” after which he stressed that the operation will meet “the highest and most demanding international standards for safety and care of the environment.”

“We have the experience, the capacity and the will, and we have all the resources to carry out this project safely,” Frey said.

In turn, the YPF Exploration Manager, Hernan Marettoassured that the activity forms a “hinge stage for Argentina that faces an opportunity to transform the energy sector, adding value and with a solid culture of growth,” understanding that “offshore can reach similar or greater volumes than Vaca Muerta.”

Meanwhile, the vice president of exploration and development of CGC, Martin Cevallosnoted that the company sees “as a very great motivation for the synergy that can occur with three companies that each contribute their key part.”

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