Repsol YPF announced its largest-ever oil discovery on Monday, doubling its proven reserves in Argentina and increasing by a third the amount of recoverable oil claimed worldwide by the Spanish-Argentine energy company.
"This changes the map for Argentina," company spokesman Kristian Rix said, calling the discovery "transformational" for the company as well.
Repsol YPF SA is based in Spain but operates in more than 30 countries around the world. As of Monday, Argentina is home to two-thirds of its 3 billion barrels of proven oil reserves, up from half.
The discovery includes 927 million barrels of recoverable resources, 741 million of which is oil. Combined with nearly 1 billion barrels of recoverable oil that Repsol YPF already booked in Argentina, it's enough to turn the South American nation into an energy-exporter, Rix said in a phone interview from Madrid.
President Cristina Fernandez celebrated the discovery in May of a huge shale oil deposit in the "Vaca Muerta," or "Dead Cow," basin of Argentina's Neuquen province, but less than 10 percent of it had been explored at the time.
Repsol YPF owns rights to 12,000 square kilometers (4,633 sq. miles) of the 30,000 square kilometer (11,583 sq. mile) basin, but like other oil companies, has only begun to search them. The resources announced Monday were found while exploring an area of just 428 square kilometers (165 sq. miles) known as "Loma la Lata."
The company now plans to expand its drilling in a nearby area of about the same size that shows similar potential, Rix said.
For Argentina, "this could tip them back into a situation where they are able to export and generate income," he said.
And for Repsol YPF, Argentina's largest energy company, it's a game-changer: "The group has 2 billion barrels of reserves and you add a billion, and it's transformational," he said.
Repsol, the Spanish side of the company, has reserves in about 31 countries overall, including Libya and Algeria. YPF has nearly all its reserves in Argentine territory. Together, the group's reserves were declining until last year, when with confirmations off the coast of Brazil and in the Gulf of Mexico, "we finally managed to find more oil than we were pumping," Rix said. "And this now puts us into a whole new scale of reserves and production."
"We were on a trend, doing well, recovering our capacity, but this really makes the line shoot up," Rix said.
Follow Michael Warren on Twitter at http://twitter.com/mwarrenap