Bolivia’s role as a South American gas market supplier was a key theme at the Geosciences Technology Workshop Bolivia 2018, AAPG’s first technical workshop in the country, held this summer in Santa Cruz de la Sierra.
The workshop, entitled “Optimizing Exploration and Development in Thrust Belts and Foreland Basins,” drew 180 participants from 54 companies and 16 countries throughout the Americas, Europe, Asia and Australia.
The high-profile guests drew national attention, and local media outlets covering the GTW described Bolivia as playing in the “big leagues.”
All the national and independent companies operating in Bolivia attended the event, which included talks by the minister of hydrocarbons and the president of Yacimientos Petrolíferos Fiscales Bolivianos, the state-owned energy company.
Luis Alberto Sánchez, minister of hydrocarbons of the Plurinational State of Bolivia, inaugurated the event recognizing the significance of having AAPG in the country.
“This type of workshop is very important for us because it promotes an exchange of experiences between countries, knowledge of modern technologies and optimization of tools to be more efficient and to get results,” he said. “One of our goals for the nation today is achieving ultra-efficient exploration.”
Sánchez noted that in addition to exploring conventional resources, Bolivians need to learn more about the country’s unconventional resource potential. He cited figures conducted by Paris-based Beicip FranLab, one of YPFB’s principal consultants.
“Beicip reports that conventional resources in Bolivia are above 130 TCFs; for unconventional resources the figure is four digits,” he said.
Sánchez cited another goal for the country: transforming resources into reserves.
“It is geology that makes this transformation possible, and that is why a pillar of our industry,” he said.
He noted that Bolivia is a country with high prospectivity, a privileged geographical location and access to strong markets.
“There is interest in Bolivian gas, and not only from our neighbors. Today we envision LNG exports.
Interest in Bolivia brought an international audience to the GTW, which included 22 oral presentations, 22 posters and seven exhibitor stands representing companies in China, Australia, France, Argentina and Canada.
The general managers from YPFB Chaco and YPFB Andina, YPFB upstream units, attended the event alongside regional managers from Repsol, Petrobras, Shell and Total.
The Bolivian Hydrocarbon Chamber of Commerce, Bolivian Geological Society and the SPE Bolivia section provided local support.
Event sponsors included Repsol, CNPC BGP, Paradigm, BeicipFranLab, Bolpegas, Halliburton and 3D Geo.
Elvira Pureza Gómez, AAPG Latin America and Caribbean Region president-elect and general co-chair, described GTW as a “premium technical conference.”
“I appreciated learning about Bolivia’s complex geology, prospectivity and seeing outstanding work being done by industry and professionals who are applying the latest technology and shifting paradigms,” she said.
Gómez, who oversees exploration and production activities at Nexen Colombia - CNOOC subsidiary, described GTW as a positive step forward both for Bolivia and for AAPG.
“Workshops have a positive impact on technical networking, which is crucial in exploration phase to succeed,” she mentioned. “It is really important to connect the region technically, and having a workshop in Bolivia for first time is the initial to achieving this goal.”
A Century of Exploration
The workshop started with a panel entitled “100+ years of Hydrocarbons in Bolivia.” Industry pioneers, including national industry legend Asterio Ayaviri, told stories about early discoveries in Margarita Field, currently Bolivia’s primary producer in the South Sub-Andean region. They also described how YPFB was founded 1936.
The focus expanded through four half-day sessions: Petroleum Systems and Complex Structural Geology, Data Integration and Enhanced Subsurface Imaging, Technologies to Reduce Risk and Maximize Production and Future Exploration Potential in Bolivia and Beyond.
Technical presentations and subsequent roundtable discussions focused on Bolivia’s hydrocarbon potential, successes and challenges related to exploration and in foreland basin and thrust belts and the potential for development of unconventional resources.
YPFB Corporation President Oscar Barriga closed the workshop with “Expanding Paradigms–Ensuring Future Success for Bolivia’s Oil and Gas Industry,” a presentation highlighting exploratory projects conducted in the Sub Andean, Altiplano and Plains regions during 2015 and 2018 and previewed opportunities in the Altiplano, Madre de Dios and Pantanal Basins.
Session Chair Fernando Alegria, Bolivia exploration group lead at Shell, said he believes Bolivia as the potential to be the Southern Cone’s natural gas provider.
He also recognized challenges, including the quality of acquired seismic information as well as issues related to the environment and communities.
For Bonora, Bolivia provides both challenge and promise.
“(Bolivia) has a great petroleum system that is generating a lot of hydrocarbons but with very difficult and challenging traps,” he said, adding that wells are expensive and take a long time to drill.
“Technical challenges are difficult but can be resolved. The biggest challenge is the poor hydrocarbon contracts that, coupled with technical and costly operations, make entry into Bolivia very difficult for new and existing companies,” he said.
Bonora recognized that the government is trying to improve both technical and legislative issues.
“A lot will depend on the success of the projects currently drilled. If successful, this will generate continuous investments from current operators and may be attract new investors,” he said.
Javier Esquivel, GTW general co-chair and YPFB exploration and development manager, said Bolivia provides great opportunities for companies like Repsol.
“Bolivia has the third highest number of gas reserves of any South American country, and nearly 50 percent of its territory – 549,290 square kilometers – has great hydrocarbon potential,” he said.
Esquivel described how in recent years the Bolivian government commissioned important regional studies and developed a portfolio of exploratory projects in multiple basins in both traditional and non-traditional petroleum zones.
“The government, through the Hydrocarbon Ministry and YPFB, currently has 80 exploration areas available for investment, with a total potential of 136 trillion cubic feet yet to find,” he said.
Esquivel highlighted two incentives for companies interested in working in Bolivia, legal security and available information.
“Guaranteeing legal protection for operators is our most important incentive for private investment. Additionally, we have a legal framework designed to encourage the exploration and exploitation of hydrocarbons in Bolivia,” he said.
Esquivel also noted how YPFB, through the National Hydrocarbons Information Center, has access to a database with information is found for each of the available areas.
“This means that companies don’t have to start from scratch when they come to work in Bolivia,” he said.
For Gómez, GTW Bolivia represents the beginning of a new era for AAPG in Bolivia and Bolivia inside the AAPG organization.
“This GTW showed AAPG what Bolivia has to offer and showed Bolivians how AAPG can be one of their best resources for sharpening their technical and professional skills, developing their careers and connecting with colleagues worldwide,” she said.
Gómez hopes that GTW Bolivia is just the beginning of a longstanding partnership between Bolivian geoscientists and AAPG.
“Bolivia has a huge potential, not only in terms of natural resources, but also in its people,” she said. “The technical competency, professionalism and enthusiasm of Bolivian professionals, both young and seasoned, is inspirational and very exciting for our region.”