Argentina has granted state-owned energy company YPF and Norway’s Equinor an additional two years to carry out exploration drilling in the country’s offshore basins.

According to publications in Argentina’s official gazette, Equinor secured two-year extensions on blocks AUS-105 and AUS-106 in the southern Austral basin, and another pair of years in Block CAN-114 in the northern Argentina basin.

Equinor operates both AUS-105 and AUS-106 with 100% stakes and has a 50:50 joint venture with YPF in CAN-114.

The three blocks were acquired in April 2019 during Argentina’s first offshore bid round, which attracted about $720 million in investments with the awarding of 18 tracts.

A total of 38 blocks were on offer in the auction, the first open bid round for Argentinian offshore acreage in more than 20 years.

Equinor and other companies that secured blocks in the round have asked for contractual extensions of the first exploration period, as their operations were impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Back in March, the government has agreed to extend the contract for Block MLO-124, operated by Italy’s Eni in the Malvinas basin, for two years.

Block CAN-114 is located a few kilometres south-west of Block CAN-100, where Equinor and project partners YPF and European supermajor Shell plan to spud a highly anticipated well by early next year.

Equinor entered Argentina in 2017 and has stakes at eight offshore blocks.

The company also holds interests at two producing blocks — Bandurria Sur and Bajo del Toro — that are operated by YPF in the Vaca Muerta shale formation in the prolific Neuquen basin.

Recent discoveries in Namibia are expected to boost interest in Argentina's offshore plays, due to geological analogies between the two regions.

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